In the 1970s, “thick description” revolutionised anthropology. Out went grand universal theories of human behaviour and passive, neutral observation on the part of anthropologists. In came context-rich, subjective narratives that took into account the complex web of relationships behind how people behaved. I think strategy needs to undergo the same revolution.
In a story packed full of interest about taste and evolution, one fact in particular blew my mind:
“Genetic studies show that the largest group of birds – the oscines, or songbirds – originated in Australia before spreading worldwide. That group now contains about 5,000 of the 10,000 known bird species, including robins, cardinals, thrushes, sparrows, finches, jays, and starlings. All of these birds descended from an ancestor whose voice lilted through Australian trees and whose taste buds were tickled by sweet Australian nectar.”
In the 1980s, the Human Interference Task Force set about trying to communicate, across tens of thousands of years, the danger of nuclear waste. Their mission was to develop signs and symbols that could be placed at sites where nuclear waste was buried, that would communicate the danger that lay beneath. One of the proposed solutions was to create long-time nuclear waste warnings, carved into stone and part of a system of hostile architecture and other symbols that would signal to any future inhabitants that these were hostile and dangerous places, not to be disturbed.
E. Saxey has written a haunting poem in both Old English and modern that restates these warnings, transforming them into something supernatural and other-worldly. #