We should shift our focus to proximities, when it’s appropriate, effective and enjoyable. Proximity thinking and connectedness make this easier.

A connected world, combined with some new concepts and processes, presents the possibility of shifting our focus to proximities when it’s appropriate, and when doing so can be more effective and more enjoyable.

So why don’t we? Probably because our current systems and approaches have so much momentum and we’re so used to them. So to change becomes a matter of both learning what is now possible in a connected world, why and when it makes sense to change, and then getting our feet wet (transitioning) by making some changes to limited proximities.

I’ve written something which makes the case for what is possible and why and when it makes sense. It’s a letter I wrote as part of the online course Let’s Be More Alive — Intro to ProxThink. I’m sharing it below, along with a short intro for the letter which summarizes the key points I’d like you to notice for the purposes of this blog post.

Also, perhaps the letter will help persuade you to explore and enroll in Let’s Be More Alive — Intro to ProxThink. 🙂

Four Key Related Parts of the Following Letter

If you don’t have time to read the whole letter below, here are four key parts related to shifting our focus to proximities when it’s appropriate, effective and enjoyable.

One key idea is about when using the ProxThink growth model is more appropriate:

… the [ProxThink] growth model is probably more appropriate for proximity-oriented situations. However, we are facing many proximity-oriented situations, and they may be our most critical situations. Yet some older approaches we’re still using were developed before we were so networked and connected, and perhaps don’t translate well to networks.

The above section mentions proximity-oriented situations, and you might be wondering what I mean. For more on that, see the post For Shared Challenges and Shared Situations, We Need Networked, Proximity-Oriented Approaches.

Here’s more about what the ProxThink growth model can do, when used by people who are connected and networked, especially via their mobile devices:

… since the growth model helps people in a shared situation treat the proximity more like a person, or one element, instead of many unconnected elements. I think this helps the proximity seem and act more like a living thing, and in turn enhances liveliness for people who are a part of it.

The following section talks about how, when a proximity becomes more of a living thing, it should increase variety and enjoyment for people:

… when a proximity feels like a living thing, people will likely want to keep it going and enjoy doing so. Further, since people using the growth model focus in part on the life of the proximity, and keeping the proximity alive, it can allow more variety in their lives. Why? If the focus is more on the proximity (which is actually a blended focus on the proximity, elements and relationships) then while valuable differences may need to be created, adapted and/or maintained, it may matter less who does the needed creating, adapting and/or maintaining of valuable differences, as long as someone does it. When many different people can do what needs to be done to help create, adapt and/or maintain valuable differences in the proximity of their shared situation, there’s a greater chance that whoever decides to do what needs to be done may want to do it and will enjoy doing it.

And here’s more about the benefits of the increased variety in people’s lives:

… this may open up possibilities for people to have more varied lives, sometimes doing one thing, and other times doing something else to help create, adapt and/or maintain valuable differences. It may not be necessary for people to become such specialists, and then feel or get stuck being specialists if they don’t want to be specialists so much of the time. These possibilities for variety will likely enhance people’s minds, bodies, moods and social lives! And these possibilities for variety can create more sustainable variety and liveliness.

I hope the excerpts above highlight for you key parts of the full letter below, which is from the online course Let’s Be More Alive — Intro to ProxThink.

A Letter to Explain and Invite

Hello!

I hope you’ve found the course interesting so far, and that you think it has potential for you and/or your proximities. At this point, you will probably get more out of the following letter. I want to talk a little more about how the ProxThink framework can help us be more alive, and then invite you to get involved in some groups and projects.

I hope you’ve begun to see how the ProxThink framework can be useful for creativity, innovation, and problem-solving. These uses apply especially well for individual people who think and relate with the framework. These uses can make for more productive, lively and enjoyable thinking and living for individuals.

But perhaps you’ve also begun to see that the ProxThink framework may have broader uses that can improve our lives and help us be more alive. This is especially true of the ProxThink growth model, since it applies to collaboration and shared challenges, both of which are shared situations. And, I think the growth model works at many scales. As mentioned earlier in activities for your shared situation, the growth model is probably more appropriate for proximity-oriented situations. However, we are facing many proximity-oriented situations, and they may be our most critical situations. Yet some older approaches we’re still using were developed before we were so networked and connected, and perhaps don’t translate well to networks. Since the growth model evolved on and was designed for networks, I think and hope it has some potential to change how we live, for the better.

I think the growth model approach, especially when applied via mobile devices and networks, can simultaneously help us create both more sustainable proximities and more sustainable variety. In fact, I think sustainable proximities and sustainable variety evolve together, reinforcing each other. Together, sustainable proximities and sustainable variety help us be more alive.

I’m using the term sustainable broadly here. By sustainableI mean that the complexity of growth and life can persist, adapt and change as needed. In this sense, you might think of sustainable as often meaning lively. We can’t instantly make the world sustainable, but we can make the proximities of some situations more sustainable. And since proximities overlap, this sustainability can perhaps spread.

In particular, proximities can become more sustainable with the growth model since the growth model helps people in a shared situation treat the proximity more like a person, or one element, instead of many unconnected elements. I think this helps the proximity seem and act more like a living thing, and in turn enhances liveliness for people who are a part of it. Not only is sustainability built into the Vadi Agreement, with the process of creating, adapting and/or maintaining valuable differences, but when a proximity feels like a living thing, people will likely want to keep it going and enjoy doing so. Further, since people using the growth model focus in part on the life of the proximity, and keeping the proximity alive, it can allow more variety in their lives. Why? If the focus is more on the proximity (which is actually a blended focus on the proximity, elements and relationships) then while valuable differences may need to be created, adapted and/or maintained, it may matter less who does the needed creating, adapting and/or maintaining of valuable differences, as long as someone does it. When many different people can do what needs to be done to help create, adapt and/or maintain valuable differences in the proximity of their shared situation, there’s a greater chance that whoever decides to do what needs to be done may want to do it and will enjoy doing it. At the same time, this may open up possibilities for people to have more varied lives, sometimes doing one thing, and other times doing something else to help create, adapt and/or maintain valuable differences. It may not be necessary for people to become such specialists, and then feel or get stuck being specialists if they don’t want to be specialists so much of the time. These possibilities for variety will likely enhance people’s minds, bodies, moods and social lives! And these possibilities for variety can create more sustainable variety and liveliness.

So I think and hope that the ProxThink framework can create not only more lively thinking and problem-solving, but also more lively collaboration and shared situations. This combination can help us be more alive.

It’s in this spirit of creating more sustainable variety, and being more alive, that I invite you to visit loughry.com to see some projects and groups you can take part in, adopt, adapt and/or join. Each relates in some way to the proximity thinking framework. Since you’ve taken this course, you’ll feel more comfortable with them from the start. And, each provides you ways to get involved and help this effort grow, improve and evolve.

I hope to meet you or hear from you at some point! But first, please check out loughry.com and get involved in some of the groups and projects! 

Thanks,
David Loughry

For Shared Challenges and Shared Situations, We Need Networked, Proximity-Oriented Approaches

Do you think that many of our most critical challenges these days are shared challenges? I do. I’m talking about challenges shared by groups of people, from small groups to regions to humanity itself. I think our dominant mental frameworks are not as robust or as effective as we need them to be for shared challenges. And, our dominant mental frameworks don’t leverage our current technologies well enough. I think there are better approaches for our critical shared challenges, and using them could boost not just our survival prospects, but our health, happiness and sustainability too. In addition, these approaches can be used for more everyday shared situations, including shared situations in businesses, communities, organizations, schools, governments, churches, homes and elsewhere. I’m looking for adventurous early adopters to try out these approaches. But let’s think about tools for a minute.

Using the right tool for the job, or a better tool, usually helps. There are many kinds of tools, including physical tools, software tools and also conceptual tools. Conceptual tools may be some of our most important tools. Using conceptual tools to change how we conceptualize or conceive of problems and situations can make big differences in how we deal with them. Not only can they make possible different approaches, but different conceptual tools can generate very different results. Also, an interesting thing about conceptual tools is that often, the more general they are, the better. When you have general concepts that apply to a broad range of situations, you have powerful tools that can be used more often.

I’ve developed some new conceptual tools for shared challenges and shared situations. These leverage the concept of proximity, including the idea that proximity also means nearness in relationship. Proximity thinking is a very general proximity-oriented framework that as a whole is a conceptual tool. And, the ProxThink framework becomes a set of multiple conceptual tools when you get to know it. I developed the framework over many years, integrating my diverse background in the arts, sciences, design and business. It’s a framework for creativity, innovation, problem-solving, sustainability and living, and a significant part of it is for people who share a proximity, challenge or situation. A situation is whatever a person or a group is dealing with or considering. A challenge is a type of situation.

From a proximity thinking point of view, some of the conceptual tools and approaches we use for shared challenges and shared situations could be better. I can’t go into everything here, but for now remember that we can consider situations, in a very general way, with just three terms: element, relationship and proximity. And, that the proximity consists of elements related or potentially related to a situation, in physical, mental and other ways. With these terms in mind, we can begin to see that many of our approaches for dealing with challenges tend to be more element-oriented and/or relationship-oriented, in contrast to being proximity-oriented. For example, element-oriented and/or relationship-oriented approaches like markets, politics and hierarchies can work well in some situations, but they are often also used less effectively in situations which are more proximity-oriented. Now consider more proximity-oriented shared challenges like climate change, sustainability, shared projects, shared spaces, shared resources and shared events. In these kinds of challenges, it helps if the group with the shared situation can relate more directly to the proximity of the situation. Networked technologies, when combined with some proximity-oriented approaches I’ve developed, help groups relate more directly to proximities. How? By deploying the ProxThink growth model processes of RelatePoints, ProxMonitors, Vadi Agreements and ProxRewards (proxri) on a collaborative, networked, mobile platform. Not only does this help a group better deal with a shared situation, but the proximity of their shared situation can become a kind of living thing.

Not relating well to proximities may explain the persistence of some of our challenges and some of the dysfunctional situations in our lives. Using proximity-oriented approaches for some of our shared challenges and shared situations could make a difference. And at the same time, using them could be more healthy, fun and enjoyable. I think it can also create more sustainable proximities and what I call sustainable variety. However, we need to be somewhat careful in transitioning to proximity-oriented approaches, since our “muscles” for relating to proximities are weak. Also, just as there are limits to element-oriented and relationship-oriented approaches, there are limits to proximity-oriented approaches. So element-oriented and relationship-oriented approaches will still be valuable. Life then becomes more a matter of choosing, combining, and even overlapping the most appropriate approaches. In other words, using the right tools for the right jobs.

A longer introduction to these proximity-oriented approaches, including links to the collaborative, mobile Shared Situation Guide that you can use now, is a piece I wrote called Some Situations Call for Proximity-Oriented Approaches Like the Shared Situation Guide, Leading to More Sustainability and VarietyKeep in mind that the Shared Situation Guide is a preliminary implementation of proximity-oriented approaches, and more will need to be done to integrate the processes it uses into our systems and lives.

If you’re interested, you might try one or more of these non-sequential options: Read the piece mentioned above. Start using the Shared Situation Guide immediately on your mobile with your associates, friends, family or neighbors (no cost, offered via proxri). Schedule an online or in-person guide workshop. Dive into the ProxThink framework at proxthink.com. To explore and use the Shared Situation Guide, to contact me, or to collaborate with others using the guide, visit: sharedsituations.wordpress.com.

Some Situations Call for Proximity-Oriented Approaches Like the Shared Situation Guide, Leading to More Sustainability and Variety

Some Situations Call for Proximity-Oriented Approaches

Hello,

Are you, as an individual or in your organization, exploring ways of thinking about and relating to situations that could make more progress on the big and small challenges you face, and humanity faces? Whether you’re exploring or not, what follows will expand your possibilities. First, these four definitions will help with what’s coming up. A situation is whatever you are dealing with or considering. An element is anything you’re considering as separate, including a person, place, thing, idea, feeling, time, group, relationship, etc. A relationship is any kind of association or connection between elements. And, the proximity consists of elements related or potentially related to a situation, in physical, mental and other ways. With the proximity thinking framework I created, you can consider situations and challenges with the four basic terms situation, element, relationship and proximity. Although considering elements, relationships and the proximity may each be important in dealing with situations, sometimes one or two of them may dominate our attention and activities, even when that is less effective. You may see that many of our approaches for dealing with challenges, which are kinds of situations, tend to be more element-oriented and/or relationship-oriented. For example, approaches like markets, politics and hierarchies are typically more element-oriented and/or relationship-oriented, meaning they have a greater focus on elements and/or relationships than proximities. No doubt, certain kinds of situations are most effectively dealt with by element-oriented and/or relationship-oriented approaches. However, some of the big and small challenges we face are shared situations, and may be more context-related or environment-related, or may relate to diverse elements across areas that may not typically be connected, so they are more proximity-oriented. And, sometimes it’s easier and more effective to consider a proximity, such as when relationships between elements are hard to define or in flux much of the time, so element-oriented approaches become difficult. Plus, sometimes it just becomes clear that we need to focus on a proximity. For example, consider shared challenges like climate change, sustainability, shared projects, shared spaces, shared resources (whether big like water or power sources or small like parks or kitchens), or shared events (whether big like a festivals or conventions or small like potlucks, picnics or meetings). These kinds of shared challenges are more proximity-oriented. In these kinds of challenges, it can help to relate more directly to the proximity of the situation. Networked technologies, when combined with some new proximity-oriented processes I’ve developed, let us relate more directly to proximities.

While developing the proximity thinking framework, I created some new proximity-oriented approaches that let us relate more directly to proximities. How? By deploying the four ProxThink growth model processes of RelatePoints, ProxMonitors, Vadi Agreements and ProxRewards (proxri) on a collaborative, networked, mobile platform. The ProxThink growth model was developed to work with networks, and grew partly out of asking myself, if you want to relate to a proximity sort like we relate to a person, what would be needed? A RelatePoint is a primary starting point or place for coordinating relationships in the proximity, and is similar to the ability to meet and/or talk to someone. A Proximity Monitor, or ProxMonitor, provides greater awareness of and information about the proximity, similar to the feedback we get from facial expressions, voice tonality, body language, and of course what someone is saying, when we relate to them. Similar to commonly accepted standards of behavior and ways of interacting with people are Vadi Agreements. The term Vadi (pronounced vah’dee) is short for valuable differences. Vadi Agreements acknowledge that differences are a part of relationships and some differences have value, and provide relationships and agreements which can help valuable differences persist, adapt and change as needed. ProxRewards (proxri) are somewhat similar to the need, when dealing with someone, to provide encouragement, positive feedback, rewards, and so forth, which help one or both of you, and which keep the relationship flowing. So a ProxReward is a reward which relates elements in the proximity, and is often a reward made with the proximity in mind. ProxRewards are also called proxri for short (pronounced prox’ree).

When deploying the four growth model processes discussed above on a collaborative, networked, mobile platform, you have proximity-oriented approaches that are integrated conceptually and technologically. With them, people can relate more directly to the proximity of their shared situation. These approaches can help us make more progress on the big and small challenges humanity faces, but also everyday challenges and shared situations. In the process, these approaches help create more sustainable proximities and sustainable variety. It’s both fascinating and a nice surprise that these approaches can make our lives more sustainable as well as more interesting, healthy and vital with more variety. I think sustainable variety is closely related to what nature does, which is perhaps a clue that these approaches have value and potential.

The proximity-oriented conceptual and technological approaches mentioned above come together in a specific form in the collaborative and mobile Shared Situation Guide. You can use it for shared situations with friends, family, coworkers, neighbors and others. It works on your Android phone or iPhone, your tablet and your computer. I’d like you to try it. It helps your group relate more directly to the proximity and each other, improving shared situations. It turns the proximity into more of a tangible, living thing, making it easier to relate to. It also gives people chances to relate to the proximity and each other in a wider variety of ways. Combined, these things can help groups with a shared situation come alive and thrive, and life becomes more enjoyable. There may be other people in proximities you share who are already using the guide, or if not, you can start collaborations that others can join. Keep in mind that the Shared Situation Guide is a preliminary implementation of proximity-oriented approaches, and more will need to be done to integrate the processes it uses into our systems and lives. Learn more, access and try the Shared Situation Guide, find guide workshops, access guide starter sets, and discover other people who are using it, at sharedsituations.wordpress.com.

If you explore the proximity thinking (ProxThink) framework and the Shared Situation Guide, you’ll learn more about and use the concept of proxri, briefly introduced above. You’ll also see that the framework and Shared Situation Guide are offered via proxri. Proxri in practice are sort of like the give and take of a neighborhood, relationship, friendship or perhaps being a considerate traveler. How do you proxri? Basically, you consider the proximity, including your benefits, your circumstances, the other party’s circumstances, and some wider context, and then proxri as appropriate. A proxri may include money, things, services, ideas, tasks, relationships, actions, and so on, as well as a combination of these. So a proxri to me for the framework and guide might also be a referral, consulting or speaking engagement, teaching gig, grant, or other opportunity. In addition, I’ve created a collaboration deal so that people who collaborate on or improve the framework and guide can get proxri. If you think my work might be, or is, useful, interesting or has potential, please consider a proxri for it. You can find out more about my circumstances via this ProxMonitor. You can learn more about proxri here. You can make financial proxri here or via the proxri links on most any page of proxthink.com. As far as non-financial proxri, you can let me know about them by contacting me via the contact methods mentioned below.

Please contact me with any questions, comments, or for other related reasons, via the contact links on the Shared Situations or ProxThink websites. Also, if you’d like to get involved in growing the shared situations approach on various levels (social, technical, legal, organizational, etc.), please get in touch.

Thank you,
David Loughry
Shared Situations website: sharedsituations.wordpress.com
ProxThink website: proxthink.com

Creating the Life We Want, with a Tip from Skiing

Ski i Trysil

Ski i Trysil” by Ola Matsson for Trysil is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

I think it’s probably true that we, as individuals and groups, can create the life we want, to a large extent. But I also think it’s a bit like skiing. If you do the right things at the right moments, the ski and the mountain do a lot of the rest of the work. In life, the skis are things like the systems, tools, products and services that we create and we use. When I say “systems,” it includes not just things like infrastructure but things like formal and informal social networks, conceptual frameworks, and processes we use to do things large and small. This means such systems might include the proximity thinking framework, the sustainable proximities approach, the shared situation guide and the shared situations website. I’ve worked very hard to make these ProxThink-related systems be like a good pair of skis. When used with reality (the mountain), they can do a lot of the work for us, and can help make life better and more enjoyable.

As touched on, an important point about the above is related to the word “we,” which can mean ourselves individually, but also larger groups of people, and even all of humanity. So we need to think carefully about the systems, tools, products and services that we create and we use. But I think we especially need to think carefully about the systems, as systems can condition the range of options we have, and our quality of life in general. I’ve thought very carefully in creating the ProxThink-related systems mentioned above, and even about the transitions to using them more often.

 

Challenge:LA — The Shared Situations Submission to the Los Angeles Civic Technology Challenge

The Civic Innovation Lab of the City of Los Angeles recently held an open challenge, and I applied. Here’s how the lab described the challenge:

Challenge:LA is Los Angeles’ first civic technology challenge to leverage the collective ingenuity of its citizens to solve some of our most pressing problems.

In partnership with the Office of Mayor Eric Garcetti, we encourage designers, developers, artists, activists, students, data scientists, policy makers, academics, entrepreneurs, and citizens at large to submit a solution to one or more of the following challenge areas: transportation, community, water conservation.

Challenge winners will have the opportunity to present at the #techLA Conference on October 10, 2015 and participate in Accelerate:LA, a four-month city accelerator program in Los Angeles designed to encourage the sustainability of each solution and create real impact.

If you’re interested, here’s the official introduction to the three challenges (Transportation, Community, Water Conservation):
http://www.civicinnovationlab.la/challenges

I applied to the Community challenge. Here’s how they framed it:

HOW MIGHT WE HELP FACILITATE ACCESSIBLE PARTICIPATION IN CIVIC ISSUES AND INCENTIVIZE DISENGAGED POPULATIONS TO CONNECT WITH CIVIC LIFE?

Possible areas of focus:
• Support the integration of new Angelenos into the community;
• Facilitate citizen engagement via local civic participation;
• Drive economic activity by helping entrepreneurs launch local small businesses.

Applying was an interesting and productive experience. Even if I don’t win, I developed some useful new ideas and approaches. And, it forced me to develop the new Shared Situations website sooner!

I thought you might find my application interesting. Below are some key parts.

WEBSITE 

http://sharedsituations.wordpress.com

PROJECT NAME

Growing Community-Oriented Skills, Capabilities and Outcomes Through the Collaborative Mobile Shared Situation Guide, and the Shared Situations Website, Starter Sets, Workshops and Public Collaborations

PROJECT HEADLINE
Enter up to 15 words. One-sentence “elevator pitch.”

Groups come alive and thrive when people relate to the proximity of their shared situation.

PROJECT DESCRIPTION
Enter up to 100 words.

People are more likely to be active and effective in their communities when they can see and use the same processes that work with friends, associates and neighbors. The collaborative mobile Shared Situation Guide uses the scalable four processes of the ProxThink growth model. A group can improve a smaller-scale situation by relating more directly to the proximity of their shared situation, which the guide teaches and enables. The guide is extended and enhanced by the Shared Situations website, providing in-person and online workshops, as well as searchable and shareable guide starter sets and larger-scale public collaborations.

AREA OF FOCUS
• Transportation
• Community (X)
• Water Conservation

PROJECT MATURITY
• Idea
• Early prototype
• Full prototype
• Beta (X)
• Publicly available product or service

AUDIENCE
Enter up to 250 words.
Describe the target audience or community your project aims to serve. How does your solution impact their role or participation in the community?

The collaborative mobile Shared Situation Guide is for a group of people with a shared situation. It can scale from small groups to large. At larger scales, human limits are more likely to be reached than technological limits. At that point a “team of teams” approach might become appropriate, and the ProxThink growth model processes used in the guide scale for this as well.

Through the networked mobile collaboration taught and enabled by the Shared Situation Guide, the proximity becomes more of living thing that people who share a situation relate to and help keep alive. Through that, groups come alive and thrive.

When people see the same processes being effective at different scales, they become more likely and more able to become active in public collaborations. These public collaborations can be for situations shared by larger groups, such as neighborhoods, communities, cities and regions. The larger proximities of such shared situations are then more likely to become living things that people help keep alive.

People can learn to use the Shared Situation Guide on their own or through in-person and online workshops provided through the Shared Situations website. There they can also find, share and comment on guide starter sets for common situations, leveraging what others have learned and created for similar situations. More intimate experiences with the Shared Situation Guide can lead to larger community experiences and outcomes enabled by public collaborations people find and join via the Shared Situations website. The reverse may happen as well.

DATA
Enter up to 250 words.
Describe how your project either utilizes publicly available data or creates new open data to enable better decision-making or an improved process [creating more equitable mobility / incentivizing disengaged populations / facilitating water conservation] in Los Angeles.

There are several nice things related to data about the Shared Situation Guide. First, within the guide, it is easy to link to web pages that provide needed data. Second, since the option of spreadsheets is literally built into any guide text document, it is also easy to include data in a group’s customized guide documents. Third, the ProxMonitor process and section of the guide lends itself to data and reminds people of the important role data plays in relating to proximities and keeping proximities alive.

Depending on their shared situations, groups using the Shared Situation Guide for smaller scale collaboration or larger scale public collaboration may utilize publicly available data, create new open data, or both.

New open data may get created as part of the ProxMonitor process, when groups choose to share ProxMonitors with other people and groups. This might occur simply as information sharing. It also might occur when ProxMonitors relate to multiple proximities and people see that the ProxMonitors can benefit multiple proximities and situations simultaneously.

DATASETS
Enter up to 100 words.
Are there any datasets to which you would like access to aid in the development of your solution that are not currently publicly available?

This would depend on the specific public collaborations that people start and join on the Shared Situations website.

IMPACT
Enter up to 250 words.
How will your project improve the outcomes and/or experience of people living in Los Angeles as it pertains to [transportation / community / water conservation] in an evidence-based way? What types of decisions or processes does your project inform?

The Shared Situation Guide and the Shared Situations website can improve the outcomes and/or experiences of people living in Los Angeles in both general and specific ways. The general ways have been covered fairly well in previous sections. Specifically, the guide and website can have evidence-based impacts and inform specific decisions and processes. To better understand, I’d suggest that anyone evaluating this application spend some time with the guide and website. The website is at http://sharedsituations.wordpress.com. Although the guide is linked to from the website, the guide is also at http://quip.com/XUclAKWY4Lmj.

A visual asset I’m including is the Flow Graphic shown on the guide document called Using the Guide and Linked Documents. The Flow Graphic shows a looping sequence for using the growth model processes that are part of the Shared Situation Guide. By using these processes, people naturally create ongoing evidence-based monitoring and make decisions based on information related to their shared situation. It should be noted that ProxMonitors can be any combination of technological monitors and/or human monitors. Smaller scale examples of such evidence-based monitoring and relevant decision-making can be seen in two ProxThink guide starter sets found on the Shared Situations website, one for organizing a picnic and one for a shared kitchen. A larger scale example would be using the ProxThink growth model for the California drought, which could become a collaboration joined via the Shared Situations site (see this link: http://wp.me/p1Ry8Q-fI).

SUSTAINABILITY
Enter up to 250 words.
Describe how your solution creates value for its end-users and could scale in a sustainable fashion?

I’ve covered how this project creates value and scales. Here I’ll look at sustainability and scaling, both in terms of technology and the concepts.

Technology: The Shared Situation Guide is a set of linked Quip documents with explanations for using them. Here’s how Quip is described: “Quip changes the way teams work together. Quip combines documents, spreadsheets, checklists, and chat in a simple interface that makes collaboration easy. With Quip, you work with people, not files. Thousands of companies from a wide range of industries have adopted Quip to make communication and collaboration more efficient.” The guide could be adapted to other major platforms. However, Quip is the most functional, elegant and multi-platform (iOS, Android, Windows, Mac). Since Quip is built for large corporations, and I’m not locked into Quip, the technology scales and is sustainable. A similar argument could be made for WordPress, where the Shared Situations website is hosted.

Concepts: With the ProxThink framework I created the sustainable proximities approach. From that evolved the idea of sustainable variety. I think variety in life is critical to health, happiness, and vibrant communities, and that variety and sustainability reinforce each other and enhance each other. The Shared Situation Guide and Shared Situations website are real-world implementations of the sustainable proximities approach, and I think have a solid chance of increasing sustainable variety. Also, a focus on keeping a proximity alive is inherently more oriented towards sustainability than focusing on single elements, such as individual people, businesses or organizations.

VISUAL ASSET
You may upload visual pitch materials (e.g., image, infographic, visualization) that helps illustrate your project. Please do not upload a copy of a Keynote or Powerpoint presentation or Word document that repeats your answers above. [Please note that we only accept the following file formats: JPEG, GIF, PNG, PDF, MOV; max 1 MB]

ProxThink Growth Model Flow Graphic

 

“Relate to the Proximity of a Situation” is a shorthand abstraction (SHA) that may improve your cognitive toolkit.

In 2011, edge.org asked: What scientific concept would improve everybody’s cognitive toolkit? Then 164 different contributors answered it. They were basically asking the contributors for what are known as shorthand abstractions. Here’s how they explained it:

James Flynn has defined shorthand abstractions (or SHA’s) as concepts drawn from science that have become part of the language and make people smarter by providing widely applicable templates (market, placebo, random sample, naturalistic fallacy, are a few of his examples). His idea is that the abstraction is available as a single cognitive chunk which can be used as an element in thinking and debate.

Recently I attended a meetup.com philosophy meetup, where we discussed a slight tweak to this question: What one, scientific or philosophical concept would improve everyone’s cognitive toolkit and worldview? This got me thinking and resulted in the following short piece related to the proximity thinking framework. I’d like to introduce you to this shorthand abstraction: Relate to the proximity of a situation. Here’s the essay …

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Relate to the Proximity of a Situation

You can also relate to the proximity of a situation, as opposed to just relating to elements within it like people, things, ideas, feelings, etc. A situation is whatever you are dealing with or considering. But what is the proximity?

Informally, good examples of larger scale proximities are contexts, environments, regions, communities, and neighborhoods. A lot of our toughest problems and challenges these days have to do with these kinds of proximities, so I hope that motivates you to read on.

Good examples of smaller scale proximities are a multi-person shared office; the people, ideas and things related to a project; and the location, people and feeling of a party or conversation.

But how to define the proximity in a useful way? One of the dictionary definitions of proximity includes nearness in relationship. Which leads to the question, relationship to what? And also, what are being related? So in the proximity thinking framework, I’ve had to be more specific. More formally, the proximity consists of elements related or potentially related to a situation, in physical, mental and other ways. What are elements? An element is something you’re relating to other things, such as a person, place, object, idea, feeling, time, group, relationship, situation, proximity, etc. (Yes, a proximity can be an element in a different proximity.)

So while we often relate to proximities more indirectly by relating to elements within them, you can also often relate to a proximity more consciously and directly. Although you may do this sometimes, you may not be used to thinking this way, because our current systems of organization and thought often tend to focus on elements rather than proximities. But it’s possible to change. And here’s more motivation to read on: our networked world is sometimes making it harder to separate elements from what they’re connected to, but also making it easier to relate to proximities.

Of course it’s been possible since the dawn of human coordination to do things which relate to a proximity, and people have done so. The key idea is that you do things with the proximity in mind, that have a chance of keeping the proximity alive, vital, interesting, invigorating and growing. These can be things you do on your own, as well as things you do in some coordinated way with other people, which benefit, for example, the context, environment, region, community, neighborhood, office, project, party or conversation. “Do them on your own” kinds of things might range from doing something that boosts the vibe of the party, to something that affects the environment, to something that helps the atmosphere at the office, to something that improves the neighborhood, to a change that affects the direction and progress of a project. Things you do with other people in some coordinated way might include meeting, planning, coordinating, celebrating, innovating, collaborating, creating shared systems, etc.

Now, think about the times we live in. We have many physical tools, such as computers, mobile phones, sensors and networks, to help more of us relate to proximities, and relate more directly to proximities. These can affect both things people do on their own to relate to a proximity, and things people do in coordinated ways.

And how do we best use these new tools? I think the biggest opportunity lies in certain conceptual tools that can help us leverage those physical tools even better. There are two conceptual tools I’d like to point out.

One of those conceptual tools for relating to proximities is the idea of a proximity itself. You’ll notice this one concept was just applied to contexts, environments, regions, communities, neighborhoods, offices, projects, parties and conversations. Any situation you are considering has an associated proximity, so the concept of proximity can be used at any scale. But what about when a number of people share a proximity? That’s where the other conceptual tool comes into play.

The other conceptual tool for relating to proximities is a model for coordinating and collaborating that I call the ProxThink Growth Model. It has four processes that are not too difficult to explain, and they make the proximity easier to relate to, especially when a number of people share a proximity. The four processes are RelatePoints, ProxMonitors, Vadi Agreements and ProxRewards (or the shorter version of ProxReward, which is proxri). The four processes and the growth model are in turn part of the proximity thinking framework. The framework is built on the concept that being is about relating, and the notion that you can think in a very general way with just four terms, which are: situation, element, relationship and proximity. The framework also has ProxPatterns for relating to proximities with more creativity and innovation. But back to the processes of the growth model. I’ll define the four processes and then provide examples.

RelatePoints are points or places for coordinating relationships in the proximity.

A Proximity Monitor, or ProxMonitor, increases awareness of the proximity, and provides information about the proximity.

The term Vadi (pronounced vah’dee) is short for valuable differences. A Vadi Agreement acknowledges that differences are a part of relationships and some differences have value. Vadi Agreements provide relationships and agreements which can help valuable differences persist, adapt and change as needed.

Proxri (pronounced prox’ree) is short for one or more ProxRewards, which are rewards made with the proximity in mind. Proxri may include money, things, services, relationships, actions, and so on, as well as a combination of these. More formally, a ProxReward, or proxri, is a reward which relates elements in the proximity.

Of course you can use the ProxThink Growth Model informally without high technology. Here are examples: In a shared office, a RelatePoint could be the water cooler or a bulletin board in the break room. The ProxMonitor process could occur in the notes on the bulletin board or the discussion around the water cooler. The Vadi Agreement might be agreements or understandings about the use of the shared refrigerator in the break room, or that the company survives and thrives thanks to certain valuable differences between people, materials and processes. And proxri can include a wide variety of actions, from cleaning out the refrigerator once in a while, to financial dealings, to saying things to people in the office which help keep the atmosphere professional but also lively, interesting, and growing.

But now consider the technological possibilities. I think we could be doing a better job of using networks and technologies to relate to proximities, by using the ProxThink Growth Model with technology in networked applications. I think RelatePoints could be accessed via computers and mobiles, that have ProxMonitors showing both human- and sensor-generated monitoring of proximities, allowing shared Vadi Agreements on the network to be viewed, discussed and updated, and in terms of Proxri, there could be suggestions for proxri as well as places to share and discuss proxri that were made or received. You’ll notice the four processes, when combined with technologies, have the effect of transforming the proximity of a situation, or even multiple situations, into more of a tangible element you can relate to. I think such networked applications which use the growth model can be deployed at various scales, from homes and team projects to regions and global proximities.

In addition to the benefits of keeping a proximity alive, vital, interesting, invigorating and growing, I think relating to the proximity of a situation has other benefits. I think relating to proximities is a way to make proximities more sustainable, and also helps us with the challenge of climate change. (I’ve used the ProxThink Growth Model in what I’m calling a sustainable proximities approach.) I think relating to proximities can help people within them be healthier and happier. And, since proximities often overlap, relating to a proximity often helps other proximities.

I think one other interesting thing happens when the focus shifts to relating to proximities. It’s about variety. I think variety and relating to proximities help each other, grow each other, and reinforce each other, at many levels. But perhaps the most interesting level is that of individual people. When individuals relate to proximities, they often need and develop a variety of skills, viewpoints, and efforts, which is invigorating, challenging and rewarding and partly why they may become healthier and happier. The proximity also becomes a kind of living thing, and generates variety for the individuals within it. So relating to the proximity is partly it’s own reward, and becomes self-reinforcing. This is also related to my project VarietyPeople.org.

I hope this essay has helped convince you that you can also relate to the proximity of a situation. You may have picked up a few other shorthand abstractions as well! These include: proximitiesRelatePointsProxMonitorsVadi Agreements and ProxRewards (or the shorter version of ProxReward, which is proxri). For more about the growth model, please see this link: Brief Intro to the ProxThink Growth Model. I’m also trying to spread this approach via a project and site called Proxri.org. For more about the proximity thinking framework, please see proxthink.com or the new mobile site proxthink.wordpress.com.

Here are some ways you might want to explore the ProxThink Growth Model. I’m working to deploy the model in some basic ways with two arts projectsArtsdown and Artsflex. If you would like to somehow deploy this model in your business or organization, in any way, low-tech or high-tech, please get in touch. If you would like to adopt or adapt the growth model for your proximity or situation, here’s more about that. If you would like to explore tools that can be used or adapted to implement the growth model for a proximity that people share, please see this page. If you would like to find other individuals, websites, groups of people, proximities or situations using proxri and the growth model, please see this page.

I’d like to collaborate with developers to create networked applications that use the ProxThink Growth Model with technology in more extensive ways, to boost the sustainability and variety of proximities. If you are a developer interested in collaborating, or know of developers who might be, please get in touch with me and/or them. We could start small, and perhaps the process of building it and using it could be so much fun that it grows. I think people should get involved at first mainly for the challenge and the variety, and only work on it part-time. Also, we should have a place where people involved could post their own ProxMonitors and proxri wishes, so others could proxri them for their efforts in building this.

I’m also seeking a group of individuals who might like to collaborate with me, even part-time, on my projects as a collection (ProxThink, sustainable proximities, Proxri.orgVarietyPeople.org, Artsdown and Artsflex), as I think there is potential to grow them faster and better with a team of people and with each project helping the other projects.

Finally, I’m available for services such as webinars, flexible collaboration, idea sessions, speaking and consulting, each of which uses and demonstrates the proximity thinking framework, so please contact me for more information or scheduling.