On day 9 of Culturistan, we started off the day attempting to dive into the readings but took a left turn because some of the group felt that the readings and the discussions didn’t incorporate the larger narrative of culture and were generally narrow categorically, so we instead decided to discuss the failings of the readings and their lack of representation of major themes outside of a “Tech/Silicon Valley utopia”.
As a result, many of us decided to share our reflections about the inclusiveness or exclusiveness of the material we’ve discussed thus far, and our individual reactions to the week and how that has shaped our collective experience.
Initially we shared our reflections of the process and the guidelines that were created for the week and whether we believe it worked or not.
I cited a Google study about what makes teams most efficient and productive and it was the teams that felt the safest. I have generally felt that we collectively lose so many chapters of the narrative when even one person in a group feels unsafe or left out and decides to refrain from sharing their thoughts. When a person feels psychologically safe enough to share their true opinions, then their ideas become expressed rather than contained. And with that expression, the group is able to respond, internalize and debate these ideas, which is generative for the collective.
Further, I believe one major attribute of creating a safe environment is to approach group discussions with integrity. There were definitely times in which I felt that there lacked a level of discernment on the part of the moderator and others when it came to the discussions. At times, the conversations felt more like ad hominem “personal” attacks between people vs a reflection on the content of what a person was saying – which in my opinion – was a major failing of the discussions throughout the week. In the spirit of creating a safe space for people to share feelings, opinions about someone’s personal life pulled into the discussions felt like we had missed the point entirely of what we were trying to achieve.
But in the end, I wouldn’t have changed the week because it was, for lack of a better word, authentic. It was a representation of what could go both very wrong and very right when you bring together a group of diverse artists with very strong opinions under one roof.
We later had our graduation ceremony outside in a beautiful garden. The beauty of the Culturistan group is that it never felt cliquey and we moved as a collective unit rather than separate subgroups.