When what we already know is organised and comprehended, a likely result is a sweeping wave of change reminiscent of the Renaissance, the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution (see The Paradigm Strategy).
What we however do not yet know is how to organise and comprehend what we already know.
Polyscopy is conceived as an approach to knowledge that can provide us this capability – and as a strategy to put it into practice.
Polyscopy is a prototype of an approach to knowledge that can enable the next phase shift in our societal and cultural evolution – just as the emergence of science enabled the earlier one.
The above metaphorical image, the bus with candle headlights, renders the motivation for polyscopy in a nutshell. The bus represents our technologically advanced and fast-moving civilisation. The candle headlights represent the way information is created and used, which we have indiscriminately inherited from the past.
As a practical message, this image suggests that the ways of creating and sharing information we have inherited will not fulfil the purposes we now urgently need to take care of, notably the purpose of illuminating the way. By designing instead of inheriting what we do with information, suggests this image, we can now make the difference between a hazardous ride into the future, and using our technology to take us to places or conditions where we may justifiably wish to be.
In an academic or fundamental sense, the bus metaphor is pointing to an epistemological stance where information is no longer considered an objective image of reality, but as a part of this reality, or a system within a system, whose purpose is to fulfil certain specific roles. Under this epistemology, the creative acts to reconfigure what we do with information become basic research – as “the discovery of natural laws” have been in the traditional sciences.
The bus metaphor further points to the necessity of what we are calling systemic innovation, where we apply our creative capabilities, and our technology, to fulfil the purposes that must be served, rather than to reproduce the habitual practices and ways of working. The bus points to the need to turn our basic institutions or socio-technical “candles” into “lightbulbs”, and to the opportunity to invent and create on this larger, systemic scale. By doing that, suggests the bus metaphor, we may make a similar difference in the ream of our institution as the conventional innovation made by designing technical objects, since the age of the candle.
The “i” in the above metaphorical image, composed of a circle on top of a square, renders the information that polyscopy undertakes to create in a nutshell. The purpose of this information is to provide direction-setting high-level insights (represented by the circle), based on a multiplicity of lower-level insights (represented by the square), which illuminate an issue or phenomenon from multiple sides.
Polyscopy is a complete prototype. It consists of about forty smaller prototypes, which cover the space from epistemology and methods to social organisation and institutionalisation.
Polyscopy itself has been created by combining the insights about the meaning and purpose of information, which have been reached during the past century (see the introduction to my book manuscript “Informing Must Be Designed“; you may skip the prolog and the acknowledgements; note that this manuscript was written in 2009 when I was still using information design instead of polyscopy as the name for the paradigm.)