If the city is the world which man created, it is the world in which he is henceforth condemned to live. Thus, indirectly, and without any clear sense of the nature of his task, in making the city man has remade himself …”
-Robert Park, On Social Control and Collective Behavior
World Outspoken exists to inspire, train, and equip culture-makers speaking good news into the cities they make.
Who are we?
World Outspoken (WOS) consists of a small team led by professor Emanuel Padilla. The name refers to the cultures that grow around the stories we tell. “World” is the word we use to identify a full culture. We talk, for instance, of the “world of sports” and refer to scattered fan-bases as nations and countries (i.e. ‘Bama nation, Blackhawk’s country, etc.) with their many customs and traditions. “Outspoken” reminds us that cultures exist as an outward expression of a community’s ideals, desires, and fears. We think all of these are summarized in a story. Culture, then, is a World Outspoken, and from that first conversation on, our team committed to studying, writing about, and teaching story-tellers (or culture-makers) to speak out well, to creatively express good and true stories to their communities.
What do we do?
We have three primary functions. WOS sets out to:
We inspire culture-makers to do their work faithfully and skillfully by introducing them to individuals and organizations who already embody these ideals. On the first Wednesday of every month we publish a podcast in which we interview a culture-maker doing brilliant work. In addition to the podcast, we share stories of inspiring culture-makers in our “Feature” articles.
Culture is a broad and wide-reaching topic of study. Most people study and train in cultural engagement, the active response to existing cultures, or in cultural-sensitivity. While these are important competencies, culture-making is an equally important yet ignored skill we must cultivate. WOS provides “Idea” articles meant to introduce concepts or skills important to culture-making. We will also provide courses on the subject, but these are still in production.
Training without proper equipment and tools is folly. To support quality training, our WOS team shares a bookshelf with collections covering the many topics important to our community. This bookshelf is only one of the many resources that WOS will provide. Expect short books and videos in the future.
Who are “culture-makers?”
Culture-makers are the members of a community who make and give shape to community life. They do this via a myriad of ways. Some focus on the arts and make memorials or monuments that help the public remember important events in history. Other artists tell stories in music and dance. Some opt to shape their communities through education, hoping to instill ideals in the next generation that were found missing in the present one. Some make culture unintentionally by way of an invention or product they create. Culture-makers are an eclectic group that includes clergy, stay-at-home mothers, not-for-profit workers, architects, activists, inventors, teenage students, and elderly retired folk. Anyone who takes an interest in the community’s life and/or does something to influence it is culture-making.
What do we mean by “Good News?”
We don’t mean to complicate this at all. By “good” we simply mean that which enables human flourishing. Opening a new park in a part of town with little green space or running an arts camp in a neighborhood where the school budget does not include arts programming are both examples of “good” cultural works; they enable the flourishing of the community. “News” means that the core story of the work rings true and just. Cultural products and systems can be deceitful, destructive, and impoverishing. Our focus is on those cultural products that reflect the “world-as-it-should-be” pairing of beauty and justice. Occasionally, we’ll also critique culture-making that has a destructive effect.
We know that not all our readers are Christians, and we’re glad for it. We value the work of all culture-makers trying to make a just, beautiful, and good city, and we supportively keep an eye out for them. In the interest of truth, you should know that the primary authors of WOS believe the gospel – the story of Jesus Christ’s life, death, and resurrection for the redemption of humanity as presented in the Bible – is the most good news. The culture we want to make is rooted in that story and our hope for the future city that it promises. It’s because of our commitment to that story that we work with others who, even guided by different motives, take an interest in culture-making.
Why focus on the city? Why “The City We Make?”
This is the question asked most often about WOS, and we should state from the outset that we aren’t excluding the suburb or rural town from our community. There are some wonderful culture-makers doing brilliant work in these settings as well. We focus on the city because it is the engine of culture. The city is made to contain the most diverse, dense, and complex collections of human community, and through it cultural production develops at an intense rate that other settings simply cannot replicate. Inevitably, the city becomes the focal point of cultural power. Political legislation is housed in the city. Cultural trends begin in the city. Economic enterprise is run from the city; even the farmers travel into the city for their market. Its influence is felt emanating through the suburbs and out into the rural communities of the surrounding region. So, the culture we make in the cities of the world has the potential to shape whole regions for good. Simply put, we focus on the city because it provides the greatest opportunity for change. For more on this question, check out this article.
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