The Ongoing Cultural Revolution

Jack Stenner sent a link to a recent piece by Volker Grassmuck at, which includes the following comments:

VG: “It seems we are stumbling blindly into the future ahead of us, bumping against walls and into each other as we go along into the unfolding digital revolution. Our actions have more unintended and far-reaching consequences than we had thought, causing more collateral damage than good.”

WPF: Developmentally speaking, this is inevitable. It is the way in which we learn, and it is how we develop, in effect, eye-hand coordination. What we are up against right now is learning how to engage in this learning process safely, by bringing art and science into a context in which we can try things without hurting ourselves.

VG: “First of all, we need data, knowledge and understanding of the workings of the digital knowledge environment. It seems that we know more about the smallest particles and the largest galaxies than about ourselves as cultural animals. This requires systemic self-reflection and systematic research, developing a sensorium for the relevant factors and the dynamics in this space.”

WPF: A “sensorium”! Great term. What “systemic self-reflection and systematic research” amount to, in my terms, are an instrumentarium and associated metrological standards for each form of living human, social, and environmental capital. Instruments extend the senses, and so we could say that what we are doing is tuning the instruments of the human, social, and environmental sciences. Existing research is determining that the instruments are tunable, and that they can in principle be harmonized, but so far almost no one is yet concerned with setting up well-tempered scales as reference standards that all instruments can play in. The Lexile Framework for Reading ( is one exception.

VG: “…culture industries are as non-transparent as any industry. Disclosure and reporting requirements are needed beyond those that exist for public companies towards fiscal authorities, that the official statistics are based on. This should also include rules of access to data for scientific research so that public policy is not informed by industry’s self-reported numbers alone but also on independent scientific enquiry.”

WPF: Could not have said it better myself. Nothing to add.

VG: “Metadata are a key element for knowing and operating the knowledge environment. A registry of works and rights, ideally with rich metadata and fingerprints would be highly desirable. It is needed for trading rights, for knowing when a work comes into the public domain and for measuring and distributing levies, including the culture flat-rate. Parts are there…but none are comprehensive and they do not interoperate. This is a basic infrastructure. It should be shared and improved by all in the way free software is.”

WPF: Again, right on! See my LinkedIn page ( and my own web page ( for more on the metrics, the instruments, the scaling methods, and the research that has been going on in this domain for more than 50 years.

VG: “…whenever we decide upon in principle undecidable questions we are metaphysicians.”

WPF: Hence, my longstanding focus on issues of metaphysics and first philosophy. See my 2003 articles in Theory & Psychology, or for something shorter, see

VG: “We cannot perceive ourselves to be apart from the knowledge environment, looking as through a peephole upon an unfolding universe. We are part of the knowledge environment. Whenever we act, we are changing ourselves and the universe as well. We are not citizens of an independent universe, whose regularities, rules and customs we may eventually discover, but participants of a conspiracy, whose customs, rules, and regulations we are now inventing.”

WPF: The shift to recognizing and accepting that we live in a participatory universe is a fundamental part of making our metaphysics explicit, as is elaborated in my Theory & Psychology articles.

VG: Mentions the UN Millenium Development Goals as an example of smart societal decision-making.

WPF: My analyses of the UN MDG data shows that the massively unmanageable data volume and the uninterpretable ordinal “metrics” (most people don’t even know they don’t add up) can be meaningfully scaled. The instruments are tuned so their measures harmonize, and data volume is reduced with no loss of information. Contact me for more information.

VG: “About us as homo sapiens we know (from Wikipedia) that what makes us special is “a highly developed brain, capable of abstract reasoning, language, introspection and problem-solving.” Globally networked computers give us the means for truly humanity-wide reasoning, introspection and problem solving. So let’s stick our brains together and work this out.”

WPF: Sticking our brains together requires that we use our global computer networks for distributed cognition. Though the network itself is in place, and the fundamentals of interactive communication are operable, we still do not have the common languages we need to think together. We need metrological standards and systems for tracing measures to reference standards. Instruments for measuring intangibles need to be calibrated to common metrics, not unlike the well- or equal-tempered musical scales, or time, temperature, distance, weight, kilowatts, etc.  We need to tune the instruments we need for arranging, orchestrating, and choreographing the beautiful music we could be making together. Similarly, markets for human, social, and natural capital, for literacy, numeracy, creativity, innovation, health, environmental quality, etc., need common currencies stable enough to trade on, and rule sets stable enough to guide decision making. Well said, Volker! You couldn’t have gotten much further than this in your articulation of the issues without expertise in measurement theory and practice.


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