Some of you probably don’t know that quite recently, I’m interested in community development and how they can establish a model for the sustainable economy (I’m still pretty much interested in quantum information and communication theory though). That is why I currently become a volunteer in two places outside my academic life. First is in a bookshop named “October Books”, an independent not-for-profit community-based radical bookshop in Southampton. The second one is in “Mutrend Lab”, an independent concept store and a collaborative space run by a creative community promoting local artists and designer. I learn a lot from these two places, a lot of new insights and perspectives, a bunch of new friends, and also I have to speak a lot of English!
At the October Books, my role is shop assistant (help to run the day-to-day activities of the bookstore, from the cash register to the stock room), social media assistant (I manage their Instagram account), and event helper (no description required). While in Mutrend Lab, mostly I help around the events (they have so many events!) and recently, I’ve committed to contributing on their blog content regularly, as a writer. Those are the least that I could do, considering it is a creative space and I’m not obviously an artist or a designer. They have a newsletter sent out on a monthly basis to their subscribers, so having a regular contributor basically ensure that the newsletter always has a substantial content to be shared. My whole job as a PhD student is basically to produce a piece of a written product called “thesis”, so writing should not be that hard. At least, that was my initial thought. Writing is still hard, especially if you consider that you will have a different set of audiences. I’m not pretty sure who will be the audiences of Mutrend Lab newsletter are, but I’m quite confident saying that they will not enjoy an academic writing style, which I regularly use my whole adult life.
This is my first piece of writing for Mutrend Lab. You probably can still sense an academic tone in this article, but Sai (the facilitator of Mutrend) said that it is perfectly fine. She said, “If you have this style, probably you should just keep it, it may give you the unique bonus point next time you write.” So please enjoy and any suggestion or critical insight is very welcomed. I’m learning!
This article has been published in Mutrend Lab website here. Please make sure to visit the website and take a closer look at what they have done for Southampton and spread the good news to your friends.
Collaboration: A Lesson from “Growth”
Saturday, May 5, 2018, we witnessed a set of inspirational figures delivering their mind-opening talks in TEDx Southampton. The theme was a simple yet a mind-provoking one, only one word, one syllable, and that is “growth”. A word that can be interpreted differently based on our experience, a word that can be used to describe something materialistic or even spiritualistic, a word that practically bears multi-interpretation. It was not just an assumption because it has been proven when we had our little experiment in the exhibition, by asking the audience to draw or to write their thought about the magical word “growth”. Some people drew trees, cells, ideas, arrows, roads, houses. A handful of people wrote a poem, story, song lyric, famous quote, or even a one-liner joke, everything related to the word. It was also fascinating to observe, that some people who had drawn or written something on our canvas, actually returned again to add or to revise their initial thinking, portraying that the idea of “growth” itself was actually also “growing” during the talks.
What is Growth?
So, the pertinent question would be what is growth? To be honest, there is no perfect answer to such question. However, we can still approach the answer slightly in a pragmatic way. First, “Oxford English Living Dictionaries” defines growth as the process of increasing in size; the process of developing physically, mentally, or spiritually; the process of increasing in amount, value, or importance; the increase in number and spread of small or microscopic organisms; increase in economic activity or value. Unsurprisingly, the dictionary provides us more than just one definition. Second, based on our experience, we also use the word “growth” almost in every aspect of our lives in many different fields. We could probably say that the trees are growing, the economy is growing, the earth population is also growing. However, given that numerous applications for this particular word, we can still highlight a single implication that connects all of them together. The entity that went through the process of “growing” will have a change in its property, it can be the quality, the physical dimension, the amount, or even the scale of importance, but most importantly, the change is expected to be incremental. Since, we could probably end up talking on all of the possible meanings of growth, in this article, I would like to limit the discussion in terms of the “ideas growth” because “idea” is one of the most popular words associated with growth.
The word “idea” itself has been used by the philosophers and scholars since a long time ago. The word “idea” is derived from the Greek word “eidos” meaning “visible form” and the earliest philosopher known for using the term “idea” is Plato. Later, a French philosopher, Descartes, describe “idea” as an image of a thing in our mind. This description can be exemplified by when we were asked to think or to imagine a man, the sky, or an angel. The mental image appeared in our mind is the “idea” of that specific thing. Based on Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy, ideas were often held to be representational images of a particular object, for example, an idea of a horse gives us a mental image of a horse. In other contexts, ideas were taken to be concepts of sorts that do not appear to be as images, for example, the idea of infinite number, the idea of a healthy life, the idea of happiness, and so on.
Given that previous proposition, can we argue that idea is able to grow? In my opinion, the answer will be yes. Considering that idea is simply as a mental image, we can simply argue that idea is not an innate quality of a human. The idea of a horse would not exist if we never encountered an experience about a horse. I have to stretch out that the process of idea acquisition does not have to be direct encounter. We have an idea of how a dragon looks like, even though we never saw a dragon directly and it is important to point out that idea we have may not be accurately portraying the actual object or the concept. It is even more profound in the realm of concept which does not exhibit physical representation where the subjectivity will play an immense role.
The Need for Interacting
I would like to claim that not all of the ideas we have can be counted as accountable. It is true that some ideas are incomplete, different, or flawed because again, it all depends how we acquire those ideas. Related to our theme, growth, what is necessary to create a more comprehensive view of an idea? One of the answers is interaction, a reciprocal action or influence between two individuals (or more). I believe the reciprocal or mutual action is required for the ideas to grow because we need the exchange process. We have to exploit the possibility and the assumption that for a given concept, different individuals may acquire the ideas differently and may develop completely distinct mental images. Thus, by interacting, making a connection with an individual from various backgrounds, give you a better opportunity to grow your ideas. Interacting and connecting means completing a jigsaw puzzle.
What we do at Mutrend
Speaking of Mutrend, we cannot separate it with the subject of creation. In order to make the idea become a tangible creation, interaction is not enough, we need to take one step higher, we need to collaborate. Collaboration means an act of working together to produce something meaningful. This goal of collaboration will not be ever achieved if the participating parties do not share the same idea. This random piece of writing departed from a simple word “growth”, which resonates strongly with what we all do or at least trying to do in Mutrend. As described in our main page, one phrase that best describes Mutrend is: “collaborative space”. We already went through a long process in this piece just to describe that collaboration is needed to make an idea turns into a tangible and meaningful creation. Mutrend is a space where the most unlikely interaction amongst the collective members will create the most unique idea that is why we also try to promote diversity at the same time. Therefore, I would like to end this article by suggesting that Mutrend is not just simply a space for collaboration, is also a space for growing.