CCR Seminar Series - 17 February, 2011
Professor Ien Ang, Director, Centre for Cultural Research
Navigating Complexity: From Cultural Critique to Cultural Intelligence
That the world is terribly complex is now a vital part of global cultural experience, a structure of feeling which has grown more pervasive in the 21st century. How do we find ways of navigating the complex challenges of our time? And what role can we, as cultural researchers, play in this task? Much humanities and social science scholarship in the past few decades has embraced complexity, so much so that the pursuit of complexity (e.g. in scholarly theorising) has become an end in itself, a key element in the production of cultural critique. In this paper, I argue that if we wish to engage with the real-world need to deal with complex realities, cultural research must go beyond deconstructive cultural critique and work towards what I call ‘cultural intelligence’. This involves a form of argument which illuminates that the development of sophisticated and sustainable responses to the world’s complex problems *needs* the recognition of complexity, not for complexity’s own sake, but because simplistic solutions are unsustainable or counterproductive. At the same time, cultural intelligence also recognises the need for simplification to combat the paralysing effects of complexity. Developing simplifications should not be equated with being simplistic. While being simplistic is tantamount to reductionism which dispenses with complexity, simplification allows us to plot a course through complexity. To put the question simply, how does one simplify without being simplistic?