The Power of “Outrospection” — A Way of Life, A Force for Social Change — Explained with Animation

Here at Open Culture, we can’t resist the RSA Animate video series, created by the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures, and Commerce. Its twitchy but supernaturally precise hand has illustrated talks by Daniel Pink, Sir Ken Robinson, Barbara EhrenreichSlavoj Žižek, Steven Pinker, and Dan Ariely. This newest RSA Animate production may provide you an introduction not just to a rising thinker, but to a new concept. “Writer on the art of living” Roman Krznaric, accompanied by the quick drawing of Andrew Park, wants to tell you about something called “outrospection.” Consider it less an entirely new practice than a fresh way of thinking about how to develop an old human capacity: empathy. He finds empathy not a “nice, soft, fluffy social concept,” but something powerful and potentially dangerous, a fuel for revolutions of all kinds.

For an example of empathy that looks to him proto-outrospective, Krznaric cites George Orwell, author of 1984 and Animal Farm. His plunge into the world of urban poverty — the deepest kind of first-hand research — to write Down and Out in Paris and London, coming to know, befriend, and work alongside the down-and-out themselves, makes him “one of the great empathic adventurers of the 20th century.” This line of thought connects Orwell’s active social curiosity to empathy as a potentially collective force; we even hear a call for new, empathy-oriented social institutions like a “human library” with actual people available for illuminating conversations. Empathy, to Krznaric’s mind, will only become more important in the 21st century, and those of us who can master outrospection, the skill of “discovering who we are by stepping outside ourselves and exploring the lives of other people and cultures,” will fare best there. If after the video you still find yourself confused about how best to engage in outrospection, don’t worry: Krznaric writes an entire blog on the subject.

via Science Dump

Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall.



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  1. Lorenzo Lara-Carrero says . . . | December 9, 2012 / 7:34 am

    I emphatize tremendously with the outrospective point of view. It adds much to exploring new ways for making a better world through collaboration and team work. At the same time it puzzles me why use Che Guevara´s image to express the emphatic outrospective approach. I won´t even atempt to challenge Che´s motives and personality. I just ask you please to find a better example. Why not Mandela or Mother Theresa? Why did you choose such a polemic personality?

  2. Nic says . . . | December 11, 2012 / 6:19 pm

    Interesting comment. I’m not sure, but I guess it’s to show that people can start out with good intentions and if empathy is misdirected it can be revolutionary in a negative way. (Sorry Godwin, but…) Hitler would be too much of a polemic personality, as you say, because I don’t think anyone can trace his motives back through all the insanity and cruelty to something pure. Che Guevara, on the other hand, has been documented as a young man trying to explore and help humanity. This crystallised into something terrible when he became too angry about the suffering and wanted to inflict it on others, I imagine. If it had gone in a peaceful direction, it could’ve been very different, but the fact that people still wear Che shirts shows that on some level people can still understand his motives to be good.

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