What am I looking at?

IMUA Labs is a knowledge-innovation and transformational-learning community open to individuals, groups and organizations willing to collaborate to cultivate the collective intelligence and wisdom crucial for leading a dignified, fulfilling, and nature-respecting life in a rapidly changing and complex world.

The foundational, determinative role of knowledge in human societies’ reproduction and self-improvement is hardly disputed. Likewise, knowledge can play a prominent role in the demise of human civilization and the destruction of the habitat that sustains all life forms: our home planet, Earth. In other words, humanity’s reliance on distinct bodies of extant knowledge and knowledge-production commitments will lead to decidedly different journeys and destinations. What summum bonum of knowledge-creation efforts should we pursue in today’s crisis-ridden world?

Collective functional decerebralization spurred by the neoliberal project has resulted in dangerous knowledge deficiencies and failures of awareness, increasing hypocognition, disimagination, rampant anti-intellectualism, the abandonment of virtue for instrumental and utilitarian rationality, and the loss of the ability to think critically and responsibly, as well as a widening metabolic rift between humanity and the natural world that portends a climate catastrophe and unfathomable suffering for future generations.

A central thesis of our grounded theory that is being tested through a Hawai‘i-focused case study is that it is possible to reverse intellectual regression and knowledge-deterioration dynamics by redesigning and harmonizing regional knowledge regimes. We argue that greater potential exists for democratizing knowledge-building processes at the regional level and that this work should play a principal role in a broader sustainability-oriented strategy of socioeconomic system relocalization.

Portfolio of Community Research, Learning and Design Ventures and Initiatives

This section briefly describes the principal design and choreography of the solution that we propose for advancing and harmonizing the regional knowledge and innovation system in the interests of its main beneficiary – the community. To realize the full potential of the following ventures and initiatives, we seek to build synergistic collaborations with our colleagues in academia, as well as partners across various sectors and groups that represent Hawai‘i’s diverse citizenry.

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Ānuenue Framework

Ānuenue Framework

This is an ongoing effort to construct a middle-range theory of transformation and generate designs of a dynamic socio-technical knowledge-regime-optimization solution to support balanced socioecological transitions in island bioregions. The use of the rainbow metaphor as a mnemonic links each of the seven colors to a strand of integrated research-education-civic-action-policy activities (we call them kinetics) that addresses a corresponding irreducible domain within a socioecological transition realm. This metaphor also helps demonstrate a holistic view of the system: sustainability is attainable only when all essential elements are harmoniously in place, similar to how a rainbow can exist only as a full spectrum of colors.

The solution’s knowledge architecture is informed by an innovative ontologico-epistemic-methodological-reasoning framework that allows scaffolding of investigative, programmatic, governing, organizational, technological, and discursive elements into a distributed-agency socio-cybernetic vehicle for affirmative knowledge production and semiotic control for optimal support of a community’s green transformation.

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Consilience Think-Do-Be Tank

Consilience Think Tank

Consilience Think Tank is a “central processing unit” of IMUA Labs’ knowledge architecture, and the main agenda-setting venue. It operates in the form of regular virtual collective-thought, training, and mutual competence-building exercises that focus on the most consequential topics and issues pertaining to the development of a robust regional knowledge system, democratization of the existing knowledge regime and its enhancement to meet the challenges of socioecological transformation, and a glocal variety of intractable and complex problems.

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Community-Advancement Institute (CAI)

Community-Advancement Institute (CAI)

Also known internally as the People’s Institute of Knowledge Innovation in the Service of Community, the CAI is both an R&D and an organization-building undertaking. Although it is being prototyped as a bespoke knowledge-advancement solution to serve the people of Hawai’i, it also represents a generalizable and transferable model for application in other regions, particularly those where communities are affected by the lack of equitable knowledge governance and are experiencing other forms of disrupted knowledge metabolism. Its central premise is that all aspects of a community’s flourishing are predicated on the community’s intellectual well-being, or its collective-intelligence potential.

Constructed as a member-supported regional knowledge commons, the CAI’s purpose is to actualize knowledge-democratization and sustainability-attainment desiderata. This mission is operationalized and implemented via building and stewarding a portfolio of community-owned knowledge assets and designing and delivering an ad-hoc “syllabus” of knowledge-production and learning activities.

Such a portfolio will integrate the requisite streams of research, learning, design, performance-monitoring, policy-advice, cultural-enrichment, public-communication, and technological-empowerment activities aimed at cultivating and fostering the community’s intellectual growth, creativity and imagination, ethical maturation, moral conation, social cohesion, and capacity for antifragility.

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Consilience Network

Consilience Network (CN)

CN is being developed as a community-empowering social and organizational-learning vehicle aimed at facilitating rapid acquisition of actionable knowledge and critical competencies in support of Hawai’i’s optimal socioecological transformation. It is a continually evolving collection of knowledge translation, sensemaking, and learning activities targeting knowledge deficiencies and misapplications, failures of awareness, miscomprehensions, reasoning errors, and inadequate or manipulative discursive practices that may impair a community’s transition to a sustainable, socioecologically benign future.

The CN’s main knowledge-dissemination and sensemaking medium is Consilience Notes, a robust biweekly synthesis of scholarly and non-scholarly print and media materials and commentary that stimulates critical thinking and enables deep self-learning for engaged sustainability.

In 2020, we piloted two companion bulletins that were lighter on conceptual traffic and academic jargon, and more focused on disseminating actionable knowledge for climate crisis mitigation and community resilience building: Climate Emergency Digest and Bounce Forward Guide (aka Civitas Solis).

In 2021, we are adding five more bulletins, Ag Hoc Insights, Island Oikonomia, Poiesis, Travel Reimagined: Human Mobility with Respect for Planetary Boundaries (aka Traveling Fugue), and Hawai‘i Low-Tech Inquirer. We are looking for partners willing to collaborate in the co-production of these e-publications  by contributing original content and/or shouldering a share of the editorial and distribution costs.

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The IKE Green Initiative

The IKE Green Initiative

In the initiative’s name, IKE stands for “Integrative Knowledge Environment.” This term reflects the boundary-spanning knowledge-intermediation nature of this activity cluster, which was formed to facilitate green-knowledge-to-action production and application by integrating knowledge, capacities, programs, commitments and infrastructure into a transdisciplinary and trans-sectoral hub for environmental sustainability meta-governance.

The IKE Green Initiative is a hybrid organizational vehicle composed of the Ecosocial Innovation Lab, a university-based transdisciplinary lab; IKE.Green, an online collaboration platform and science-policy/science-society interface being developed as a digital habitat for the widest community of green knowledge practitioners and stakeholders; and Consilience Network, a rapid-learning and knowledge-dissemination medium that provides a curriculum aimed at engaging the entire community in sustainability attainment and climate crisis mitigation efforts.

The initiative’s current (unfunded) R&D priorities are (1) building an interactive ontology of Hawai‘i’s socioecological system, (2) producing a localized glossary of socioecological transitions and global change terminology, and (3) converting the IKE.Green platform prototype to a fully functional digital solution.

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The IWA Initiative

The “IWA” in the name of the project stands for “Innovate Within Academia.” The abbreviation also gives a metaphorical nod to the great frigate bird locally known by the Hawaiian name ‘Iwa. This amazing bird spends 90% of its life aloft, soaring over expanses of ocean with grace and agility, flying at up to two-and-a-half miles above sea level, where temperatures drop to freezing.

We think of this figurative comparison as a way to argue that academia must regain its big-picture vision lost during the decades of creeping coercion to knowledge-commodification and education marketplace rationale. It must build capacity for collective metacognition, re-evaluate its epistemic responsibility to a society beset by multiple cascading crises, abandon the lazy safety of specialization and climb out of its disciplinary silos to rise to interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary levels in all aspects of its knowledge work.

This project is a living lab of its own. Its (currently unfunded) programmatic portfolio includes (1) a biweekly Critical University Studies seminar series to collectively learn and generate knowledge to support the university’s strategic pivot in the face of multiple existential challenges to the humanity, (2) a research-and-design effort to develop a conceptual and organizational model of an eco-design university—an engaged institute of thought fit to serve island bioregions, (3) development of a master’s program in island system studies and a doctoral program in integrative studies for pracademics concerned with knowledge production for and governance and stewardship of complex social-ecological-technological systems and (4) launching a regional e-journal of academic labor to stimulate a reflexive dialogue on ends, ways and means of higher learning institutions in knowledge society.

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Digital Knowledge Commons

Digital Knowledge Commons (DKC)

DKC is both a product and process embodying a community’s agency in developing, championing, and stewarding regional cognitive policies, practices, and knowledge resources as well as supporting cyber infrastructure in the public interest and on the community’s terms.

As part of this participatory research-and-design initiative, capitalizing on a body of sociotechnical systems and commons scholarship, we propose the collaborative development of an online meta-network for regional knowledge-system optimization. This meta-network will be configured as a bespoke constellation of online spaces/instruments designed to countervail suboptimalities of existing knowledge regimes and infoscapes, establish control of the community’s strategic knowledge assets, and facilitate cognitive decolonization and civic empowerment for intellectual and social emancipation. To that end, we recommend that DKC project-development and asset-management tasks be assigned to CAI.

We also view this activity cluster as a strong candidate for a university-based transdisciplinary living lab in community informatics and digital storytelling. To learn more, please ask us for an online presentation on the topic.

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Transdisciplinary Living Labs

 

Transdisciplinary Living Labs

What we refer to as labs are not conventional brick-and-mortar organized research units (although some of them most certainly deserve to be). These issue-driven deliberation spaces, design charettes, workshops, colloquia and seminar series are interdisciplinary, transdisciplinary and meta-disciplinary vehicles for ad hoc knowledge production, intermediation and design focused on cultivating and advancing a community’s intellectual well-being, ecological sustainability, equitable resilience, social innovation, society-oriented digital transformation and technology stewardship – to name a few foci of our participatory action research.

These knowledge-building efforts are configured as living labs – hybrid instruments that are simultaneously a program of inquiry, a research methodology, a space (physical or virtual), an intersectoral partnership focused on tackling a major (often intractable) problem and a framework for integrating training, research and knowledge-transfer resources and activities.

The central element of the constellation of these labs is the Ecosocial Innovation Lab (represented by the green hexagon in the center of our logo) that co-directs the biweekly Consilience Think Tank and is developing the IKE.Green collaboration platform, a digital habitat for the broadest community of green-knowledge practitioners.

Would you like to learn more about a specific initiative to better understand how you can support our work? Send us a note at imualabs@hawaii.edu, and we will be happy to schedule a video call to answer your questions.