Virginia Kenny .com

The creative intellect holds society together


My book nearing completion is 'Globalizing Psyche: Symbol shift from myth to the corporatization of institutions'.

The mists of an unrecorded past still envelope the Dorian invasions and the of the Trojan War; but they are evidence of the period of 'globalization' from which the culture of ancient Greece emerged to mould intellectual structures still dominant in global culture. Yet the past half millennium has been building, ever-faster, to a radical transition. Wars, migrations and new technologies have destabilised cultures, while the intellectual stimuli of capitalism and digital thinking changed the mental landscape.

Our advantage gained from the early Greeks is that we have their history of symbol shift and socio-economic change as clues to our immediate future; the question: how can we use it? Since I argue that symbol shift is a key outcome in globalization process, the initial method of 'Globalizing Psyche'is to develop the symbolic theme:

The murder mystery

The mystery story

An industrial can-do culture was already tending to give preference to outcomes over process. For instance, a parliamentarian with a good grasp of statistics was more likely to stand out as an up-and-coming candidate for a Ministry than one who pondered complex issues in weighing the input and output of cause and effect.

The market wants product not analyses. It also has a low tolerance for anomalies. So the mystery story emerges as an antidote to analysis avoidance in a popular culture that plays down contextual symbols. This would explain the increasing incidence in TV dramas of bosses who obstruct orderly, inferential detection because they (or the public or political masters) demand results.

Although the method in a detective-story is, superficially, quite simple, it demonstrates the central place of the symbolic space in adaptation of cultures to change. It takes us through processes and symbolic clues that would be skipped if there were no creative fillip of context on a novel or drama, because the very process of creating the story is a complex symbolic process symbolic space .

The symbolic space is analogous to an electrical transformer. It is now my view that symbol-network activity takes place around the enactment of a very basic myth. In the case of a mystery or crime story, we relate to the fundamental human belief in cultural redress where the moral culture has been transgressed. To this end, the dead will speak (get the message through) to the living. Any transformer has two poles. In a symbolic space there will be (as Victor turner proposed 40 years ago) a physical pole of vivid elements of the social imagining of our mortality, like food, blood, soil, and an ideological pole of the cultural morality and ethos. In the mystery story, the physical pole is the blood shed, or the body disintegrated, and the ideological pole is the implicit belief that an injustice can be redressed through correct collective procedures.

World Cup fever

World Cup fever

Why does it feel so natural to enter into a global event via television?

Humans coming together through a television event is just another step in the process of people adapting to new circumstances while the human mind remains the same. We survived by evolving the group mentality and this called for sharing know-how and feelings.

Like all creativity, various football codes appear to have arisen spontaneously from within groups that need a physical and emotional way to express shared experience. The same need has led to a new experience of belonging and communal engagement accessible through mass media presentation of local and international sports competitions. These competitions are now possibly the major experience of communal belonging in modern life and mass media play a positive role here, even though valid criticisms can be levelled at their influence and presentations.

The symbolic space of sport is a modern expression of belonging, where people can enjoy common ground and act out emotions shared with others as we see them doing in the football stadium symbolic spaces . They go away, whether energised or disappointed, steeped in visceral contact with belonging.

Team games mimic tribal loyalties. They deal with vestigial fear of the outsider, so containing potentially dangerous rivalry between neighbouring groups. Identifying with a team and with other people in its successes and failures can provide a powerful, though partial, substitute for community identity and self-image. The symbolism deployed to build and maintain team spirit among supporters may seem facile but there is evidence that team affiliation brings positive energy to community, particularly when the local team wins a game. Even half-hearted team supporters know this from personal experience. And Germany has proved this convincingly through the 2006 World Cup, because they feel there is a new community of pleasure and pride in patriotism.

This may well be a test of how enduring one-off sporting triumphs can be(whether as successful host nation or champion) in intensifying the euphoria of belonging within the group.

Symbolic spaces


At kindergarten, Martin was a bit different from the other 4-year-olds. When they counted to 100, he stopped at 4.

To play with his idea, he set up a space rich in symbolic material that he had already mastered. He obviously understood the way 4 can be manipulated because he was drawn to the visual tension between the three superimposed crosses of the Union flag. He instinctively chose repetitive humming of a (linked) theme with subtle 4-measure phrasing.

This is how we think. It could have been the play of thought in anyone of any age:

  1. Martin reproduced existing symbolic spaces by painting and humming.

  2. By rigorously co-opting these tangible representations from the social imagining, he held his space intact against the distractions around him.

  3. Within that space he could observe anomalies, conceptualize his idea, then test its validity.

Mind and symbol

Today's quote is from A. N. Whitehead in his 1927 lectures at the University of Virginia:

The human mind is functioning symbolically when some components of its experience elicit consciousness, beliefs, emotions and usages, respecting other components of experience. The former set of components are the symbols, and the latter set constitute the meaning of the symbols.

At the moment, I am bench-testing my own definition of symbol as:

a perception hardwired to carry a physiological charge.

The quick simplification of this is:

a synaptic ping.

Other Sites

From belonging to brand name

The paper below was delivered at the October 2002 annual conference of the Independent Scholars Association of Australia: Blurred Boundaries: Australians and Globalisation: Negotiating Our Way, at the National Library of Australia, Canberra, and published in the Conference Proceedings, 2003.


From belonging to brand name: globalisation and the redefining of shared territories

Globalisation means change and quick social response times. My argument here is that, with boundaries blurred, the moment has come to discuss our social programming for belonging so that we can negotiate a way forward during globalisation. The challenge now is to turn knowledge into know-how.

I am dealing here with globalisation as a social phenomenon. The current rate of globalisation is so fast that the natural process of social evolution cannot keep up. The social imagining of who we are is still anchored in real territory, even though globalisation, as a social process, has been going on since the beginning of human society because, as a species, we cannot resist the 3Ts of trade, technology and travel.

Read the whole paper...