McLuhan contends that all media – in and of themselves and regardless of the messages they communicate – exert a compelling influence on man and society. Prehistoric, or tribal, man existed in a harmonious balance of the senses, perceiving the world equally through hearing, smell, touch, sight and taste. But technological innovations are extensions of human abilities and senses that alter this sensory balance – an alteration that, in turn, inexorably reshapes the society that created the technology.
In the design world, we are building a new metanarrative that centres around an expectation of failure as the path to new ideas and innovation. It is known as design thinking or human-centred design. IDEO is the company that has been most successful as a design institution and are the evangelists of this new religion. They believe that integration of art, science and commerce can save humanity. You just have to follow the process.
Ego is being redefined by corporate culture. We are tribes of consumers who declare membership through consumption, by affiliation to a collection of brands that define one’s personal identity and one’s social circles.
“A corporation is a company or a group of people or an organization authorized to act as a single entity (legally a person) and recognized as such in law.”
Be redefining what it means to be human, we have created a system, designed to value things, that is devaluing humanity.
In other words, corporations avoid culpability and responsibility in the eyes of the law for crimes against humanity by impersonating humans.
To reject the Christian narrative is not as easy as changing ideas about what you believe about a sacred text.
Language forms us. “We shape our tools and thereafter our tools shape us.”
Jesse James Garrett might say that our perception is interpreted through our cognition, which is evaluated through our emotions, and we respond through our actions.
Through language, we articulate our conceptions of spirituality, about the human experience of consciousness and self-awareness. Over time, we turn language into art and architecture as a way to express our ideas about how we organize our lives into institutions and social systems.
So, how do you reject the Christian narrative without rejecting everything that is foundational to the social structures that western society has created over the past 2,000 years?
Words are a technology designed by humans to create shared ideas and experiences. Words are audible sounds that are symbols for ideas that can be shared through vibrations that travel through the air and are decoded by a physical and organic apparatus that relays messages across nerves and synapses to be interpreted through an electrochemical process that results in thoughts within a human brain.
These thoughts are then processed into the technology of the alphabet and relayed through physical synapses, a digital network called the internet to post into a social media platform.
Language, vocabulary, syntax and grammar are the tools that we use to create metaphors that allow us to create mental models of reality. Without a metanarrative, how do we understand reality?
We can only exist at the level of instinct, fixed patterns of behaviour exhibited by organic organisms in response to environmental stimuli.
If we are to be fully human, we transcend our basic human needs for food, clothing and shelter to reach for transcendence by finding meaning, purpose and belonging through shared experiences. Metanarratives are the tools we need to achieve consensus about how we imagine, design and build our common life together.
In the design world, we are coming to understand that we are no longer creating physical tools and artifacts. We are designing the human experience.
The Christian metanarrative is able to dominate the world, because it is a monolithic system that has built the tools, the language, the symbols, the art, the architecture, the institutions, the economic, military, and political machines, and the social identities and structures to wield hierarchical authority over populations.
Many people are concluding that the Christian edifice that has dominated the world for centuries is crumbling. The Nones and Dones are renouncing affiliation to a monolithic culture that is revealing a structure based on the shifting sands of an authoritarian populism.
However, to reject the Christian metanarrative is not as easy as changing ideas about what you believe about a sacred text.
If we use the metaphor of architecture, we can transform the façade without modifying the structure, but that is a superficial change.
To start over might mean to destroy the foundations and rebuild from the ground up.
So, at this point, the renovation project feels overwhelming, because we are resisting the inertia of thousands of years of socialization and the accumulated efforts of humanity to build the existing infrastructure.
The Reformation was a change in façade, an iconoclastic effort to destroy the symbols and systems of the medieval age that had corrupted the institution.
Modernism rebuilt out of the failure of past traditions to provide peace and security and transformed the façade into a glass curtain wall to expose the exterior forms, interior structures and the human activities accommodated by these spaces.
Recently, we have been observing a loss of faith in all of our institutions: governments, corporations and churches. The institutions are crumbling from the inside out. The façades have fallen away to reveal the human heart, and we are horrified. We are afraid of what we are witnessing in real time.
It is an apocalypse, an unveiling.
People are responding in fear by shutting down, escaping, building walls, and looking for strong leaders to lead them back to a sense of well-being, prosperity and security. Inadvertently, however, they are destroying the institutions and each other in the process.
So, the question is, are we going to keep building on top of the existing foundation? Do we renovate and construct a new façade over the existing structure? Do we tear it down and rebuild?
Can we reimagine our social architecture?