The practice of obtaining information or input into an innovation project by enlisting the services of a large community who may benefit from its desirable outcome, typically via the Internet.
Crowddreaming is a neologism that appeared for the first time in the title of the first edition of the national contest for Italian schools “Crowddreaming: Youth co-create digital culture”, promoted by the Stati Generali dell’Innovazione (States General for Innovation – SGI) association for the Digital Cultural Heritage Arts & Humanities School network in 2015.
Along the way Crowddreaming grew into the Art of Crowddreaming, a full-fledged practice to support younger generations in facing the three ever-changing Digital Age Challenges to developing cultural heritage and heritage-related skills: the Challenges of Speed, Form, and Persistency.
The Three Challenges of Digital Cultural Heritage
The Challenge of Speed is common to most aspects of technology-driven society since the 20th century. Change is so quick and relentless that often it is no longer possible to weigh-in on extrapolations of past patterns to analyze trends in the course of planning for an uncertain future. Therefore, new social technologies develop to let people learn from the future as it emerges. Theory U by Otto Scharmer at Boston MIT’s Presencing Institute has proven itself a very effective tool. This theory proposes to face the Challenge of Speed through a recursive prototyping process, based on a phase of deep listening of the needs of a social ecosystem, the understanding of one’s own role in the change process and then the development of a prototype to drive the change. Nonetheless, Theory U is biased towards leading communities or enterprises, so it is not very easy for teens to connect with its language and tools. Crowddreaming moves from Theory U to build social tools who can be easily understood by the younger generations who will lead the charge to face the Challenge of Form and the Challenge of Persistency.
The Challenge of Form is relevant to digital societies. It is actually the core itself of the ubiquitous Digital Transformation. Humankind learned to shape energy into meaningful information only a few decades ago. It is a first in history and the extent of this revolution has yet to be explored and understood. Digital technologies advance blazingly fast and new “energy-shaping” skills to be learned emerge at a very hard-to-keep-with pace. Even the concept itself of “digital” has yet to be clarified. Quite often it is still regarded as a dimension beyond the physical plane, where things happen almost by magic. This challenge requires to find a way to help teachers, cultural operators and teens to acquire the right digital mindset and skills in a sustainable way.
The Challenge of Persistency is specifically relevant to digital cultural heritage. A construct with significant mass tends to be permanent and persistent in time. Moreover, it is well known how to preserve it. On the contrary, energy-based digital constructs are very volatile. Millenials are the first generations called to face the Challenge of Persistency, because their culture is and will be more and more digital. This challenge requires to find a way to help them to pass their digital cultural heritage to the next generations. It requires also to find solutions to transmit digital knowledge, practices, art through the centuries.
The Art of Crowddreaming
The Art of Crowddreaming practice relies upon a profound belief: a mind can be called intelligent only if it is capable of dreaming. This is true for the connective minds of digital age too. The Art of Crowddreaming is the discipline that trains a connective intelligence to lucid dream of a desirable and achievable future.
A crowddream’s life-cycle goes through four phases:
- It comes to life usually as an individual insight of the First Dreamer;
- It becomes a clear intent by way of interacting with First Dreamer’s social circles.
- It becomes then a compelling story about a desirable future that is able to capture the imagination of a big enough crowd so to make it happen.
- Finally, it evolves into a well-designed innovation project that can shape the shared dream into reality.
There are three critical transitions in the crowddreaming process: from insight to intent, from intent to compelling story and from compelling story to responsible innovation project.
The first transition corresponds to the deep listening phase on the left side of a U procedure and it can be facilitated with the tools and methods suggested by Theory U.
The second and third transitions are placed in the right wing of the U, when a prototype has to be created. The Art of Crowddreaming educates to manage it by using methods and language of Hollywood blockbuster productions instead of the academic leadership-oriented vocabulary of Theory U. Such narrative choice makes the concept and the prototyping phase way more accessible and appealing to teens, who are our main target. They are fascinated by the idea of learning how to produce a blockbuster movie.
The starting point is a quite obvious statement: every project that achieved its goal has a success story to tell. Proceeding backwards from the socially desirable future of the happy ending, innovators, researchers and societal actors co-create the plot with all of its characters, relationships, places, props (resources), events, subplots that had to be there in order the achieve the happy ending.
Dramatic theory and movie production management knowledge provide highly professional and perfectly honed tools to develop a story from the original insight to its final staging in the real world as required by the Crowddreaming process. They not only force to identify all the required human, financial, material and time resources, but they oblige to explore also the emotional, ethical and human dimension, which is often overlooked by purely analytical approaches to project management. One may tell that the Art of Crowddreaming is about “producing” real social interactions as if they were scenes of a movie.
The Story so far…
The Art of Crowddreaming has proven itself an effective tool to engage youth in digital cultural heritage creation and safeguarding activities in Italy during the last three years. Crowddreaming: Youth co-create Digital Culture – Piazza Europa, Quintana 4D and Heritellers projects exploited the “Digital Monument” framework to facilitate the set up of an art-of-crowddreaming-based living lab experience focused on the development of the soft skills required to co-create, manage, preserve and safeguard digital cultural heritage.
The monument is conceived as a museater, a place where to preserve digital memories about cultural exchanges and at the same time a stage where people are encouraged to act and interact using augmented reality tools. Based on a principle of content-based learning, teachers, students and societal actors were challenged to crowddream a digital story about a relevant topic regarding their local or European cultural identity. The story has to be able to travel in time through many future generations. The overall goal was to encourage both teachers and young people to get ready to face the epochal challenge to which the new generations are called: they are the first ones in the history of humankind to find themselves passing down a purely digital cultural heritage.
In 2019 the Art of Crowddreaming good practice will upscale to the European level. The Erasmus+ KA3 “Crowddreaming: youth co-create digital culture” project, coordinated by All Digital, will engage schools from Croatia, Greece, Italy and Latvia in crowddreaming a thanksgiving ceremony to be held at digital monuments disseminated in European squares to celebrate the value of the transcultural nature of Europe.