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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Comments (3)
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  • 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?

  • Nic says:

    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.

  • jennifer smith says:

    I hope we get trans­porters before I die. This would be so much cool­er than self-dri­ving cars.

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