What’s at risk as we lose our way inside the broken liminal pathways of shared space?

We are living in a time of displacement.

Trends of remote work and social isolation, fueled by digital tools designed to optimize the efficiency of commercial interactions, were only amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic. The sudden global awareness of a new level of withdrawal, however, has made the issue of the loss of shared physical space a topic of urgent debate.

It isn’t just the loss of literal physical space that we’re struggling with, of course. We’re also suffering from social deprivation, a withering of the human connections that develop best through face-to-face, in-person interactions. …


What it means when Trump grabs and shakes us

It’s a rare expression of political consensus: Everyone seems to agree that to watch the first debate of the 2020 US presidential general campaign was an emotionally disturbing experience.

Rather than engaging in a reasonable and thoughtful debate with his opponent, Joe Biden, Donald Trump badgered, bullied, and blustered almost without pause for 90 minutes. The moderator, Chris Wallace, was unable to restrain Trump, who refused to follow the debate rules his own campaign had agreed to.

Trump’s belligerence had a striking impact on Biden. Biden’s allies have tried to depict their candidate’s performance as controlled and measured, but the…


Tales of post-human digital utopias are gone. What will replace them?

The following is adapted from part of a conversation with Aditi Khorana, Lisa Gill, and Virginie Glaenzer as part of the Pass The Mic series from AcornOak.

It seems ages ago that our stories about future seemed to be dictated by digital technology. Ray Kurzweil promised us The Singularity. Rana el Kaliouby promised us computers with emotions. VR headsets were going to be on our faces all the time.

All that changed when the COVID-19 pandemic forced us to reacquaint ourselves with the urgency of the physical world. We yearned for toilet paper rather than new technologies. There was no…


Summary of the Business in the Time of Coronavirus study, uncovering the disorientation warping the fabric of reality in commerce

This article summarizes one of the findings of the Business in the Time of Coronavirus study…so why does it feature a video of a turbulent stream?

For the last two months, I’ve been conducting research into the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on the culture of business. The study of culture is the study of metaphor, and this stream is a metaphor for the experience we’re going through. It represents the realization that the fundamental dimensions of reality as we understand them in business are being warped.

This distortion is changing what we believe to be possible in business.


For the subjective study of Business in the Time of Coronavirus

Note: This article is also available as a supplemental episode of the Beyond Back to Normal podcast.

Rashmir Balasubramaniam, one of the people I interviewed for this research, said to me:

“There’s nothing overly complex, I think, in the tools and the methods, and sometimes one of the problems, I think is that we as humans make them more complex, or make them seem more like big things that we have to learn and do.”

She was talking about the tools and methods for getting ourselves grounded and together in the midst of the disorienting experience of the COVID-19 crisis…


A Subjective Eye on Business Culture in the Time of Coronavirus

(This article is also available as an audio supplemental to the Beyond Back to Normal podcast.)

I spent the first month of the COVID-19 shutdown conducting a qualitative study of the impact of the coronavirus crisis on the culture of business. This week, I’ve begun to release a first draft of the results of that research, in the form of a weekly podcast, under the title Beyond Back to Normal.

In order to understand the study that forms the foundation of the Beyond Back to Normal podcast, you need to understand me, the researcher.

Why? This research wasn’t done by…


Can COVID-19 help us diagnose underlying maladies in the culture of commerce?

Lend your voice to the project

If I had to choose a single image to symbolize the coronavirus crisis, it would be a row of empty chairs, prepared for a gathering that will never convene. Business culture is founded upon the value of predictability and planning, but our plans have come unraveled, and no one can reliably predict the future any more, even in the short term. We are lacking the common settings and experiences to bring us together and lend coherence to our work.

Let’s admit it: We don’t have the answers to the problems we currently face in…


What happens when business takes the shortcut of automation

This week, I published a new episode of the podcast This Human Business. The subject was the concept of pilgrimage in business. The podcast was 32 minutes long.

This morning, I received an email from Lumen 5, a company that promised it could create a “thumb-stopping’ one-minute video summary of the podcast using the power of artificial intelligence. Here’s what it created:

To be fair, I have been accused before of failing to comprehend the brilliance of artificial intelligence. Still, as far as I can make out, the video is garbled nonsense.

I don’t know what rows of young…


How facial scanning digital emotion detectors mistake human beings for book covers

This article is based upon parts of the transcript of The Business of Human Emotion, an episode of the podcast This Human Business.

Concerns about the economic impact of artificial intelligence are typically dismissed by its apologists as “luddite” dystopian fantasies. It’s silly to worry, they say, that AI systems will take away all our jobs. Yes, they admit, artificial intelligence actually is taking away a large number of jobs, but the priests of the temples of silicon tell us not to be concerned. AI only takes away the most menial, meaningless jobs, they say, leaving human beings to conduct…


The truth behind the hype from the Business Roundtable

The following is a transcript of a special episode released today by the podcast This Human Business. A list of the 181 CEOs who signed the Business Roundtable statement, along with names of their corporations, is available along with the podcast.

This morning, Americans woke up to a surprising headline from the Washington Post: “Group of top CEOs says maximizing shareholder profits no longer can be the primary goal of corporations”. The story referred to a document signed by 181 CEOs called the Statement on the Purpose of a Corporation. …

Jonathan Cook

Using thick consultation & qualitative research to pursue a human vision of commerce, emotional motivation, symbolic analysis & ritual design

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