Every so often a topic of conversation percolates to the surface of the internet. This current topic seems to be around the ideas of “culture hacker,” “culture creative,” “culture tech.” There is this sense in these concepts that systemic change, led by the creative class, is possible.
In 2000, YES Magazine interviewed sociologist Paul Ray and psychologist Sherry Anderson on this topic. In it, Paul remarks that:
“I initially started doing market research and opinion polling because I wanted to learn about how values relate to culture. As I got further into my research, I was shocked to see that I was getting information not just about why people give money to good causes, or buy things, or vote a certain way. I was compiling evidence that pointed to something more fundamental — a deep shift in the culture.
“I was seeing the emergence of a group of people whom we’re calling Cultural Creatives. This is something new. It doesn’t fit the standard categories of activist, or right-thinking church people, or political liberals. These Cultural Creatives are already creating lots of social inventions that are going to make a new world, not just reshuffle old political programs.”
A year later, Ray and Anderson published a book on the matter. The two posit that hidden within America are 50 million people, 26% of the population, who are these “cultural creatives.”
It seems that this interpretation has held up. More people are believing that culture has a viewpoint, an architecture, and an internal structure. Hence, culture is something as something they can modify and improve on. For many of culture creatives living in 2012, culture looks a lot like software:
- open sourced
Arguably, “culture hacker” is the updated name for “culture creative.” And it’s probably a more accurate name given their intense integration with technology and that, unlike the commune movement of the 60s and 70s, these folks aren’t eschewing society and starting anew. They are trying to hack it in the truest sense so that it operates better.
Probably one of the most well-known culture hackers is Lawrence Lessig. He is commonly known for creating the legal culture hack, Creative Commons, but he has also working on another called Root Strikers— an effort to re-engineer American society to eliminate political corruption. Other individuals include Jim McCarthy, Steve Blank,Larry Lessig, Eric Ries, Kent Beck, Ken Schwaber. The Startup Genome is a team of culture hackers trying to systematically crack the code of what makes companies and teams successful. This is important to not because much of the startup scene today teems with culture hackers. In a recent post in HBR, there was a rallying call to the startup community to build companies infused with *purpose* that will bring lasting value to society. A skim of the Management Innovation eXchange reveals posts about embracing one’s inner artist, restoring values at work, and how to mobilize and motivate people. The Innovation Excellence blog categories include ‘build capacity’ and ‘culture & values.’ The most popular talks on TED this month are about happiness, vulnerability,courage and shame, inspirational leadership, and cultivating creativity capacity.
As Paul Ray and Sherry Anderson say, we are in the midst of a “consciousness movement.” There is a collective intention to
“throw open the windows and doors of the musty old mind-sets we live in, shake the dust out of the covers we wrap around our bodies, and in a thousand old and new ways, guide whoever is willing to show up and pay attention to a fresh experience of being human.”