The term Global Village originally was coined by Marshall McLuhan to express the peculiar sensation of proximity in an era of mass media and mass communication. Increasingly, the very near and the very remote – something anywhere on the globe – can happen and be experienced synchronously by the users of media. For McLuhan, the media that connect our thoughts and our feelings to the outside world and to one another “as an extension of our nervour system” were the primordial structures that shape the direction of our perception, intention and culture. A change in the dominant medium would allow certain things to grow to new extremes, while blocking out other things. Also this change would revitalize and retrieve older structures, while preparing new developments in future. Inevitably every medium would beget a new medium at the very end of its historical cycle, and thus a new cycle would begin. The very essence of this new cycle is reversal, the path to an opposite direction. For example, the medium that can connects us globally, when pushed to its very extreme, can trigger an unprecedented renaissance of the local. This is exactly what we anticipate and study within our Network.
Global Village vs. Global Villages
When we use the term Global Village it is in plural: Global Villages. What can grow to extremes is the potential of human beings to access any kind of information or experience from any point of this globe, which can mean that we either can be “nomads” or we can be “settlers” and bring work, relations, learning with us. This holds an exciting promise: we can gain new liberty in choosing the place of our lives, without being lost in a strange or retarded place. We can choose to ignore the place of our lives as well and dive into the sphere of communication and virtual excitement. But we can also do the very opposite: use the power of communication to enhance the quality of a place, its capacity to support life, solve problems.
A very few people can create a dense field of local interactions especially when supported by the immense power of ingenuity, know-how, counseling, creativity, inventiveness that emerges between likeminded beings around the world. These “online communities” could also be called “Global Villages”, but we have chosen to use the term “Global Village” in another particular sense, as the denominator or description of an information–enhanced physical place.
This paradox or “twist” is also connected to the idea of “retrieval” in McLuhans Laws of Media, that any new medium tends to retrieve patterns from the past that surround that medium and blend and resonate beautifully with it. It could be long forgotten things and memes. Like the medium of physical transportation, the car, has retrieved the shiny armors of the medieval knights, we see the re-emergence of old stories in new lights.
What the digital medium expresses and retrieves is this very relation to space that allows us to consciously choose and care for space in a way villagers did for thousands of years : that we can finally return to or recreate a more healthy and more appropriate environment, similar to what has been the environment of humans in the agriculktural period; a place that relates to nature, is of human size, allows the individuals to influence their surroundings. We bring our mind home again, as architect Tony Gwilliam once said.
Global Villages = Smart Villages = Cooperation of Human & Nature
We take some sophistication out of the centralised institutions of the industrial age, the sophistication that helped so much to increase our knowledge and abilities, and we apply and melt it to the small and immediate environment around us that allows us to unfold in freedom and self-determination. This environment is one that still has its own traditional sophistication, often forgotten. This environment used to be “the village”, which is often connotated with terms like “miserable”, “dumb” and “poor”. We retrieve the village as a form of small human settlement embedded in a natural surrounding, but we want to make it smart and abundant.
In this goal, we are at the same time linked with a large number of equal-minded people who live and work somewhere else on this globe. We discover that this ubiquitous village spaces all around the world hold much more space for human development than the overcrowded cities. But they also hold the potential for an entirely different relation between man and nature! We discover that we can blend the natural potential of landscapes, plants, animals with the technological potential of automation – to form a new “city-organism” embedded in cultured landscape in which we live efficiently and safe – and we also nurture nature instead of destroying it. We might still be adventurous, hungry for experience and therefore nomadic – but we know there is something to return to, where we can spend most of our life at.
The main goal of our lives is to cultivate this network of villages by increasing the technological base that helps us building, growing, sometimes feeding and seeding, sometimes harvesting. From primarily market oriented we return to primarily subsistence – oriented, and we share all knowledge freely that allows us to build, grow, seed, feed and harvest better. We share this knowledge with all villages and people of the world, and the world of Global Villages shares with us. Thus we out-cooperate structures of intellectual property and competition.
Yet we might want to continue to buy and sell, but it is not for outperforming each other – which led to the monstrous structures of industrialism. It is rather based on a a retrieval of craftsmanship, skill, uniqueness. We don’t have “trade secrets”, but there is more individuality and uniqueness than ever – a blend of place, people, culture that materializes in products and services.
Village = Common Culture
Villages = Complementing Cultures
Villages might join together in different ways, as virtual cooperatives, trade partners, barter circles, might use currencies or gift economy schemes: the exciting thing is that all those possibilties are open. We do not prescribe a “one size fits all” political – economic solution any more. In fact, we thrive on diversity:
If in this pattern we choose a place to live, it is because not just the place but also the people with whom we live are in resonance with us.
Culture is an issue of choice, and this choice creates diversity between cultures on one side and a test of cultures on the other side. We might intentionally choose certain belief systems to live them out in full consequence, but we will not claim there is only one true belief system, rather put them constantly to test. Imagine a world where capitalism and communism is possible at the same time, just at different locations!
This also means that we are decreasing dependence on external factors. One of the main sources of the manyfold crisis especially at the peripheries of the world system, is that a decent life according to the promises of civilisation is not possible without a share of money. When there is not enough internal accumulation in a country, not enough power to compete and build a successful national economy, the source of that money would be corruption of those who are making their lives by selling out natural resources or labor to foreign interests. The tragedy of the “Third World” seems to be broken by the Chinese example, but we still have to see if this exception from the rule would rather confirm it by becoming another imperialist power.
There is no Clash in Cultures per se
Global Villages as we foresee them are a new and unprecedented way of global development: they survive and thrive by their internal capacities, which are constantly supported and enhanced by informational networking. Every invention or pattern that proves efficient and meaningful on one corner of the world can be multiplied, tested elsewhere, can thus be refined and augmented. To give a simple example, only one percent of the sunflowers mass is used for valuable production, the rest is “biomass” that is burned one or the other way. Green chemistry is discovering enormous wealth in this biomass, that can be processed in many ways and be the source of much more valuable stuff.
Global Villages in their very essence are a project of peace. The idea is: to make it possible for everyone, every group, each culture, to have a home place, to thrive and share knowledge and therefore thrive more and so also develop a positive interest into the growth of the commonwealth of villages regardless of their religious or cultural denomination – simply because the more there are, the greater the possibilities for all. The idea has to be tested, and it has never been tested before. We know that the building blocks are there:
* sophisticated communication technologies and therefore unlimited local learning by access to networks,
* a new and deepened understanding of the power and capacities of nature – if it is well-understood and well-managed – ,
* new patterns in architecture, solar and material technology, of feedback cycles, interactions, fields.
Lets recall the “Global Villages” of the first kind: carpenters will work with virtual cooperatives of carpenters, shoemakers with shoemakers, bakers with bakers and brickmakers with brickmakers. Almost each person in the village would be supported by a global network that cares about the persons profession, calling, endavours, allowing to raise the quality and find the worlds best answers to each question that might arise locally.
The Case for Global Villages
There are several perspectives why we think that Global Villages are an important and substantial goal to work for.
From the perspective of the individual, especially of the independent thinkers that we care for, villages in the broadest sense are environments where there is paradoxically, a potential for a larger degree of freedom and choice. In large institutions and in crowded settlements little respect is paid to individual freedom and creativity, to a balance between social norms and the personal ability to modify them, change them, refine them. There is anonymity and a feeling of alienation, of distance between what determines society and what moves the individual (and what the individual can move). Creativity is seen as a quality of entertainment, not of life. Even though such alienation might even be worse and crushing in circumstances of smaller communities, when an individual is labelled outsider by an old elite, we can imagine that this situation is easier to change by intensified local communication and direct challenge. In the context of an early endavour, the Minciu Sodas / Orchard of Thought network led by Andrius Kulikauskas, we supported the creative power of people against the inertia of institutions, because institutions tend to dampen and discourage the inventiveness and inner potential of people, which is the main source of progress and evolution. We stressed the fact that independent thinkers seek an environment which they can influence (and thus might even be found in villages rather than cities), and we help each other bringing out the best – which also means manifestation in the life circumstances of a community.
There is a radically different perspective – the perspective of the planet as a living entity – which also supports the idea of Global Villages and converges with the first. In this perspective, the better cooperation and connection between humans, landscape, plants and animals stabilizes and enhances the ecosystems, supports the intensification of the web of life and the layer of beauty that is the surface of our common home. The earth will look radically different if we continue to choose to live in urban agglomerations or if we dare to reverse the trend and strengthen the peripheries. In the latter case we understand that human presence and regenerative design can also be the key to fertility and integrity of soil, ubiquity of plants, stabilisation of climate, in short the breathing and vitality of the being that we are part of. Human needs not to be alienated and separated from ecology; human activities can be shaped in a way that they are both creating abundance for humans and resources for natural cycles. One example is the human-supported building and rebuilding of fertile, living soil, something that biological farming and composting is at the very beginning to understand completely. New ways of composting, recycling, planting, building, producing are sought that feed back in a non-toxic way into the sources of life. Human presence and interest is required to do that, and therefore the Global Villages where people live a more decentralized life, assimilated to the exciting possibilities of every kind of landscape, spreading but not sprawling, gentle and dense at the same time, lean and green, connected by the virtual networks of united problem-solving, are an interesting and essential element of our planets future.
What are the next steps?
It is self – explanatory that we are far away from even coming close to the vision of Global Villages just outlined, but we can start weaving the pattern by understanding that each and every community center, networked education place, virtual cooperation project, sharing of information and so on is a tiny step towards a great goal. Therefore it is crucial to foster and enhance networking around practical questions, mutual support, solidarity of local communities around the world in cherishing their immediate places. We must increase the awareness and the perception of each others presence, we must start to understand that it is necessary to invite and engage others into our local circumstance. We should be able to find each other quickly and commonly develop a matrix of problem-solving activities around the world.