20200
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20100
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A love letter from the year 2073

“It wasn’t taught to reporters yet that every story is ultimately about power, so they didn’t single power out as a thread that could help people quickly ascertain what was going on and what they could do about it.”

Note: This is a letter from the future. Thank you to the many scientists who made this future dimensional sharing possible! We look forward to revealing your identity once the laws change to protect you.

Title: Look into my KPEyes, an interview with poet Akua Udo
Date: January 29, 2073
Byline: Sai Clay, Topeka Civic Exchange Co-Op

Akua Udo is a distinguished poet who was recently awarded the Global Prize in Poetic Journalism with her piece chronicling the history of journalism, titled “Look into my KPEyes.” It featured the now ubiquitous refrain, “remember when, remember when…,” which as you likely know has become a popular (if not a little sassy) thing to say to people who are stuck trying to recreate the past, as a way to help snap them into future-sight. Among my favorite stanzas is this one:

Remember when, remember when
Journalism was a record
Not a reckoning

The following is a lightly edited transcript of our exchange.

Sai Clay: You’ve been experimenting in journalism for more than 40 years. How has the practice changed since you were my age?

Akua Udo: You know it as a golden age for journalism now. But when I was coming up, things were totally different. They didn’t value the other forms of currency in their communities and only looked to money as a way to fuel the business.

This era all started with the infodistrict tax bill that was passed in 2029. That started journalism cooperatives all around the United States. Before that, communities had no way of having reliable and equitable access to information and knowledge exchange, like they did other public utilities like water and electric. That was truly a dark time for information equity.

Sai: Oh, wow! I can’t imagine what that imbalance must have been like. But it helps explain the polarization we’re always taught about at the turn of the 21st century.

Akua: You’re right. What’s interesting is that, back then, people thought of news as something that was produced and distributed out of a place. That’s why they called it a news “room.” They used to conceive of it as containable, in a single brand or physical location where a set group of people worked to pull information in from the outside and then redistribute it elsewhere, often to whoever could afford to pay for it.

Sai: So what would happen if you couldn’t pay for news?

Akua: Well, you wouldn’t have any power! Again, this was back before access to information was treated as a public utility. This was deeply entwined with the sortition movement for public-powered policy change. See, up until 2029, people used to elect their public officials, who would then hold the power to create and change policy. And since elections like those were actually tools of the aristocracy, you could really only win an election if you were rich.

That’s why Donald Trump was president of the U.S.A. for almost 9 years. Until him, it was impossible to serve more than two terms, which was a limit of 8 years to be president. And the rest is history — as I’m sure you learned from your elders in second grade.

Sai: Yes! That’s everyone’s favorite course — mine too. It’s so wild learning how the people who represent the majority of the global population used to be called “minorities” in the former U.S.A. and had fewer rights and less power. I can’t imagine how hard that must have been — that people used to think like that!

I saw some old streaming coverage from a newsroom that was all about this idea of “white power” and how people turned violent in the mid-2020s trying to defend a belief they had that white people were somehow superior? It was so strange. I can’t believe people used to think like that, and that other people wouldn’t challenge that kind of thinking.

Akua: I know. At that time, women were also seen as not being deserving of power. The statistics were completely abominable. There was this model where businesses could only be started by wealthy people, and at the time, those were mostly white men. It’s wild to think how so much of the economy used to be determined and controlled by people who represented such a small fraction of the total population.

Sai: I’m a little embarrassed to ask, but is this also around the time when power literacy and power maps began to be taught in school?

Akua: It’s a great question! This was actually all stirring the pot around the same time. Power literacy did not become a field of practice and required aspect of all education until about 25 years ago. Before then, reporting was done through a small variety of early media formats. They would have the written word, video, audio, and then other combinations of it. And when the format called an “article” would come out in the written word, it would not have a power map on it. So you had to read the whole thing and try to figure out who held the power and what the levers for change were — just by studying the narrative!

It wasn’t taught to reporters yet that every story is ultimately about power, so they didn’t single power out as a thread that could help people quickly ascertain what was going on and what they could do about it. Same thing with videos and audio, too. The force of power was treated a bit like the air we breathe — you took it for granted and didn’t really point it out or pay it close attention.

Now we just expect that every story comes with a power map, and we all know how to read those images before we can even read words! The universal visual language of it — how we’re taught all the shapes and flows and connections and levers — that was not a language that had even been dreamed up back then.

There was a group of feminist cartographers who started to experiment with mapping new types of information in the late 2020s. They’re really responsible for making that into the most common and useful universal language to date.

Sai: That makes me wonder about the mental models of the time. Do you remember what it was like when the world was broken up into this idea of “organizations” and “fields” and “disciplines”?

Akua: [Laughs] I certainly do. In the days of my parents and grandparents, around the turn of the 21st century, people were pressured to study one discipline or stay in one field and become an expert in it. The mental model of education was similar to the mental model of the human body at that time. Before scientists discovered the interstitium in 2018, they assumed that what made a human body was a collection of specialized organs, plus some blood and connective tissue.

They didn’t know that the most important site in the whole human corpus was actually a networked ecosystem of fluid. Doctors at that time thought heart disease developed in the heart, or that everything could be localized. They didn’t realize that diseases develop in these “in-between spaces.”

It was the same in society — people would study a certain subject to become an “expert” in that and then go into a field of other people who were well educated in that topic. It was like they were coming together for a function, trying to create “organs” — which is why we called them “organizations.”

What we didn’t understand until a few decades later, was that the interstitium was where all the opportunity lived. We didn’t see how that supporting that connective tissue system was the foundation of our individual and collective health. So that means nobody had a job back then to be a bridge-builder or to mix together the insights from various fields. This meant that innovation was so much slower and more expensive to materialize.

Back then, there were a lot of people in my life — mostly women and what were at that time called “people of color” — who performed this interstitial function but never got paid or recognized for it. They were always seeing the big picture, connecting people to one another and to resources, and generating untold economic activity — but nobody could see it and nobody paid them for it. There weren’t any certifications you could get for that work. It was yet another form of unpaid labor, which is just incredible to think about since that work forms the basis of the global economy now. All of the civic exchanges you see around the world, they were born out of the recognition that the health of communities depended on the strength and maintenance of these unseen connections and the information that flowed between them.

Sai: This is so fascinating. I know you have to get to your next event, so this will be my last question for this exchange. What’s it like to have your work awarded both the local prize from our region and the global prize?

Akua: It’s very humbling and very exciting. I was having dinner with the other winners of journalism prizes at the ceremony a few weeks ago, and sitting next to me were last year’s winners for Liturgical Journalism, Gestural Journalism, and Sensory Journalism.

We couldn’t help but spend the entire meal remarking, with such awe and gratitude, on how incredible this golden age of journalism we’re living in now has become. A lot of these folks are also around my age — some have had more than a century of life — and their earliest memories of journalism were of an industry grasping at solutions and, by all accounts, looking like it was dying. There was a lot of fear, and a lot of collapse.

These fellow prize-winners grew up in towns where those placed-based newsrooms had operated, but had shut down because of the lack of imagination in funding models. It was a sad time, but also a fertile time for those willing and able to experiment and take risks.

At dinner, we talked about how the newsrooms that had shut down were ones that saw money as the only form of currency to fuel their work. At the time, they didn’t recognize the value of or see the potential in the time and talent of everyone around them, all those who were affected by their work. Their processes were so closed off that they would have a very small staff — like 50 people or so — who would be the only ones responsible for choosing the stories, reporting them, and then trying to get them out to everyone else. It’s hard to imagine now that these predecessors to our infodistricts and co-ops were so tiny and yet had such a responsibility as the information interstitium layer that protected and enabled the health of their region. These newsrooms had no power mappers, no youth or elders council, and no one was trained in facilitation, mediation, or listening for healing techniques.

At the same time, another force was shaping society — a weakening of the idea of truth. People around the world believed in the information coming out of these newsrooms less and less, which paved the way for lived experience journalism to become the main methodology, which it is today. What those pioneers in the 2030s found was that everyone trusted their lived, first-hand experience more than information gained second- or third-hand from people they didn’t know and trust. And don’t get me started on the promise of big data or artificial intelligence! We don’t have time for that sad story in this interview.

So some former journalists and others began experimenting in ways to distribute the experience of journalism in radically new ways. In fact, we wouldn’t even have any of the categories of this prize I won if it weren’t for more artists being invited into the field. Or in most cases, taking it upon themselves to develop and share more immediate methods for conveying the information that used to be produced out of newsrooms.

Sai: I’m so glad I was born when I was! The time you came up in sounds just excruciating. I’ll try not to have nightmares about all the things you said were so very different less than 100 years ago! I feel bad for all the people who were trying to push things forward — they must have faced so much fear and resistance.

Akua: I do, too. But in every era and at the fore of every major shift, you’ll find people at the margins, throwing everything they can at the problem. Let’s just be grateful there were enough of them to challenge the status quo, take risks, learn out loud, and get us where we are today.

Jennifer Brandel is CEO and co-founder of Hearken.

Note: This is a letter from the future. Thank you to the many scientists who made this future dimensional sharing possible! We look forward to revealing your identity once the laws change to protect you.

Title: Look into my KPEyes, an interview with poet Akua Udo
Date: January 29, 2073
Byline: Sai Clay, Topeka Civic Exchange Co-Op

Akua Udo is a distinguished poet who was recently awarded the Global Prize in Poetic Journalism with her piece chronicling the history of journalism, titled “Look into my KPEyes.” It featured the now ubiquitous refrain, “remember when, remember when…,” which as you likely know has become a popular (if not a little sassy) thing to say to people who are stuck trying to recreate the past, as a way to help snap them into future-sight. Among my favorite stanzas is this one:

Remember when, remember when
Journalism was a record
Not a reckoning

The following is a lightly edited transcript of our exchange.

Sai Clay: You’ve been experimenting in journalism for more than 40 years. How has the practice changed since you were my age?

Akua Udo: You know it as a golden age for journalism now. But when I was coming up, things were totally different. They didn’t value the other forms of currency in their communities and only looked to money as a way to fuel the business.

This era all started with the infodistrict tax bill that was passed in 2029. That started journalism cooperatives all around the United States. Before that, communities had no way of having reliable and equitable access to information and knowledge exchange, like they did other public utilities like water and electric. That was truly a dark time for information equity.

Sai: Oh, wow! I can’t imagine what that imbalance must have been like. But it helps explain the polarization we’re always taught about at the turn of the 21st century.

Akua: You’re right. What’s interesting is that, back then, people thought of news as something that was produced and distributed out of a place. That’s why they called it a news “room.” They used to conceive of it as containable, in a single brand or physical location where a set group of people worked to pull information in from the outside and then redistribute it elsewhere, often to whoever could afford to pay for it.

Sai: So what would happen if you couldn’t pay for news?

Akua: Well, you wouldn’t have any power! Again, this was back before access to information was treated as a public utility. This was deeply entwined with the sortition movement for public-powered policy change. See, up until 2029, people used to elect their public officials, who would then hold the power to create and change policy. And since elections like those were actually tools of the aristocracy, you could really only win an election if you were rich.

That’s why Donald Trump was president of the U.S.A. for almost 9 years. Until him, it was impossible to serve more than two terms, which was a limit of 8 years to be president. And the rest is history — as I’m sure you learned from your elders in second grade.

Sai: Yes! That’s everyone’s favorite course — mine too. It’s so wild learning how the people who represent the majority of the global population used to be called “minorities” in the former U.S.A. and had fewer rights and less power. I can’t imagine how hard that must have been — that people used to think like that!

I saw some old streaming coverage from a newsroom that was all about this idea of “white power” and how people turned violent in the mid-2020s trying to defend a belief they had that white people were somehow superior? It was so strange. I can’t believe people used to think like that, and that other people wouldn’t challenge that kind of thinking.

Akua: I know. At that time, women were also seen as not being deserving of power. The statistics were completely abominable. There was this model where businesses could only be started by wealthy people, and at the time, those were mostly white men. It’s wild to think how so much of the economy used to be determined and controlled by people who represented such a small fraction of the total population.

Sai: I’m a little embarrassed to ask, but is this also around the time when power literacy and power maps began to be taught in school?

Akua: It’s a great question! This was actually all stirring the pot around the same time. Power literacy did not become a field of practice and required aspect of all education until about 25 years ago. Before then, reporting was done through a small variety of early media formats. They would have the written word, video, audio, and then other combinations of it. And when the format called an “article” would come out in the written word, it would not have a power map on it. So you had to read the whole thing and try to figure out who held the power and what the levers for change were — just by studying the narrative!

It wasn’t taught to reporters yet that every story is ultimately about power, so they didn’t single power out as a thread that could help people quickly ascertain what was going on and what they could do about it. Same thing with videos and audio, too. The force of power was treated a bit like the air we breathe — you took it for granted and didn’t really point it out or pay it close attention.

Now we just expect that every story comes with a power map, and we all know how to read those images before we can even read words! The universal visual language of it — how we’re taught all the shapes and flows and connections and levers — that was not a language that had even been dreamed up back then.

There was a group of feminist cartographers who started to experiment with mapping new types of information in the late 2020s. They’re really responsible for making that into the most common and useful universal language to date.

Sai: That makes me wonder about the mental models of the time. Do you remember what it was like when the world was broken up into this idea of “organizations” and “fields” and “disciplines”?

Akua: [Laughs] I certainly do. In the days of my parents and grandparents, around the turn of the 21st century, people were pressured to study one discipline or stay in one field and become an expert in it. The mental model of education was similar to the mental model of the human body at that time. Before scientists discovered the interstitium in 2018, they assumed that what made a human body was a collection of specialized organs, plus some blood and connective tissue.

They didn’t know that the most important site in the whole human corpus was actually a networked ecosystem of fluid. Doctors at that time thought heart disease developed in the heart, or that everything could be localized. They didn’t realize that diseases develop in these “in-between spaces.”

It was the same in society — people would study a certain subject to become an “expert” in that and then go into a field of other people who were well educated in that topic. It was like they were coming together for a function, trying to create “organs” — which is why we called them “organizations.”

What we didn’t understand until a few decades later, was that the interstitium was where all the opportunity lived. We didn’t see how that supporting that connective tissue system was the foundation of our individual and collective health. So that means nobody had a job back then to be a bridge-builder or to mix together the insights from various fields. This meant that innovation was so much slower and more expensive to materialize.

Back then, there were a lot of people in my life — mostly women and what were at that time called “people of color” — who performed this interstitial function but never got paid or recognized for it. They were always seeing the big picture, connecting people to one another and to resources, and generating untold economic activity — but nobody could see it and nobody paid them for it. There weren’t any certifications you could get for that work. It was yet another form of unpaid labor, which is just incredible to think about since that work forms the basis of the global economy now. All of the civic exchanges you see around the world, they were born out of the recognition that the health of communities depended on the strength and maintenance of these unseen connections and the information that flowed between them.

Sai: This is so fascinating. I know you have to get to your next event, so this will be my last question for this exchange. What’s it like to have your work awarded both the local prize from our region and the global prize?

Akua: It’s very humbling and very exciting. I was having dinner with the other winners of journalism prizes at the ceremony a few weeks ago, and sitting next to me were last year’s winners for Liturgical Journalism, Gestural Journalism, and Sensory Journalism.

We couldn’t help but spend the entire meal remarking, with such awe and gratitude, on how incredible this golden age of journalism we’re living in now has become. A lot of these folks are also around my age — some have had more than a century of life — and their earliest memories of journalism were of an industry grasping at solutions and, by all accounts, looking like it was dying. There was a lot of fear, and a lot of collapse.

These fellow prize-winners grew up in towns where those placed-based newsrooms had operated, but had shut down because of the lack of imagination in funding models. It was a sad time, but also a fertile time for those willing and able to experiment and take risks.

At dinner, we talked about how the newsrooms that had shut down were ones that saw money as the only form of currency to fuel their work. At the time, they didn’t recognize the value of or see the potential in the time and talent of everyone around them, all those who were affected by their work. Their processes were so closed off that they would have a very small staff — like 50 people or so — who would be the only ones responsible for choosing the stories, reporting them, and then trying to get them out to everyone else. It’s hard to imagine now that these predecessors to our infodistricts and co-ops were so tiny and yet had such a responsibility as the information interstitium layer that protected and enabled the health of their region. These newsrooms had no power mappers, no youth or elders council, and no one was trained in facilitation, mediation, or listening for healing techniques.

At the same time, another force was shaping society — a weakening of the idea of truth. People around the world believed in the information coming out of these newsrooms less and less, which paved the way for lived experience journalism to become the main methodology, which it is today. What those pioneers in the 2030s found was that everyone trusted their lived, first-hand experience more than information gained second- or third-hand from people they didn’t know and trust. And don’t get me started on the promise of big data or artificial intelligence! We don’t have time for that sad story in this interview.

So some former journalists and others began experimenting in ways to distribute the experience of journalism in radically new ways. In fact, we wouldn’t even have any of the categories of this prize I won if it weren’t for more artists being invited into the field. Or in most cases, taking it upon themselves to develop and share more immediate methods for conveying the information that used to be produced out of newsrooms.

Sai: I’m so glad I was born when I was! The time you came up in sounds just excruciating. I’ll try not to have nightmares about all the things you said were so very different less than 100 years ago! I feel bad for all the people who were trying to push things forward — they must have faced so much fear and resistance.

Akua: I do, too. But in every era and at the fore of every major shift, you’ll find people at the margins, throwing everything they can at the problem. Let’s just be grateful there were enough of them to challenge the status quo, take risks, learn out loud, and get us where we are today.

Jennifer Brandel is CEO and co-founder of Hearken.

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