Gene Youngblood, “The Build: The Challenge To Create On the Same Scale As We Can Destroy”

In 1979, Gene Youngblood was deeply impressed by an idea of Sherrie Rabinowitz, “We must create on the same scale as we can destroy”.

He says here: “In one sentence she encapsulated everything I’ve ever wanted to do.” (1:23:10) He is serious, starting out with, “This is about taking things seriously. To take something seriously is to make it your way of being in the world.” (0:50)

This talk encompasses a great sweep of his personal history, quoting from the people who have most influenced him, over the decades, and including his own past work from 1970 to the present. He focuses first on Buckminster Fuller, with the well-known quote, “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”

“Bucky”, to him, was first and foremost a Utopian Radical. “‘Utopian’ is the desire for transformation at the root. ‘Radical’ is acting upon that desire: actively trying to transform the root.” (40:00) as Youngblood explains, and he saw himself, from early on, as “building, or proposing, or theorising, models of communication”. (05:00)

The ‘ecosocial crisis’, according to Youngblood, is counterbalanced by the rise of the internet. The scales are finely balanced. Will we see a communication revolution? (Or ‘radical evolution’, he suggests as alternative.) “A communication revolution is the decentralization and pluralization of the social construction of reality. That can’t be allowed, because you can see instantaneously that’s the end of the dominating system.” (31:10)

“Creating on the same scale as we can destroy begins by re-creating ourselves, as imaginative beings — resocializing ourselves to become the kind of people who would be capable of mobilizing radical will on the scale that is needed. We need mass radicalization.” (38:20)

Using concepts from Husserl, he says: “From that huge media lifeworld out there, that we call ‘the cloud’ or ‘the commons’ each of us is actively engaged in building our personal media homeworld.” (55:25)

“The threat of the digital condition to the dominators is that that opens up the ability to first of all seed the commons with materials which we then as individuals download from the commons, and build media homeworlds whose content is exactly counter to the imperatives of social control. This is why they’re hysterical.” (55:45)

This gives just the initial sense of Youngblood’s deep and rich concept of “The Build”. This wide-ranging and inspiring talk challenges us all to secede from the broadcast culture; to cultivate ‘radical will’; and to channel the resulting righteous anger and outrage, without futile ‘hope’, towards this ‘Build’. We need to learn how to create at the same scale as we can destroy.

Lead image, Wikipedia Commons

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