In honour of the Sloan-C unconference workshop I’m running this week, I have been working on a list of tips for making a manifesto. Suggestions for additions are welcome!
1. Forget about being nice. A manifesto isn’t the place for seeing both sides of the argument. If you don’t have a clear story you want to tell, or a case you want to make, a manifesto probably isn’t the right format. If you do have that story, tell it as strongly as you can. This is (at least) half the enjoyment of writing like this. An especially useful strategy (thanks to Sian for this one) is this: if you get stuck, try to articulate what you are repudiating. Repudiating is not only great fun, it will help you to be bold. Ideally, you can come back later and change some of the points from the negative “do not do…” to the positive.
2. Word choice matters. Take time to consider the meanings of the words you are using, and to find the best one for the point you want to make. In a short piece of writing like a manifesto, every word counts, so be as precise as you can.
3. One idea per statement. Don’t try to say too much in each point. If it feels long or complicated, can you split it up into more than one statement?
4. Be brief. For maximum impact, points that are tweet-sized will be easiest to share.
5. Aim for conversation, not (necessarily) consensus. A lot of a manifesto’s value is in how it allows its authors to articulate a shared position. But the shared territory (especially in a big group) will never be absolute or unconditional. In that sense, a manifesto works best as a conversation starter, an object for discussion and debate, and a provisional set of statements that represent a moment in time, a set of circumstances, and a group of people. In other words, be bold (see point 1), but hold it lightly.
I’ve been wanting to say something about the Design Futures Archaeology blog, and what its author has been doing, but I’ve found it sort of intimidating :-). For the past few months, Derek Nicoll has been deconstructing the manifesto, one aphorism at a time. Each post is a meditation that uses the manifesto as a jumping off point, but ventures far and wide. He blends theory and observation with accounts of his own varied and extensive experiences, and the result is a cornucopia – dense and fascinating.
There are some themes coming through – in particular, I’ve noticed an insistence on the value of the face-to-face, and on the limits of the distance-mediated, digitally-mediated. Of course (as Derek also notes) we’re no longer usually talking about anything being one or the other – that’s something that is emerging from the ubiquity of our networked devices. As Enriquez reminds us: “mobility … dissolves the boundary between here and there, departure and return, dwelling and travelling” (2011, p.49). But anyway, the limits of particular kinds of mediations seem to be important in these posts, and I get that, especially when questions of power arise:
How does technology, and those who design, own and have power over it, make this a prepared environment for us to work within, live and socialize within and learn within? These are key questions defining who and what you can access, as the idea of when and where you can access disappears with sci-fi, wi-fi and wide-fi.
It would be impossible to summarise even one of Derek’s posts – but I encourage you to check some of them out next time you need a strange, enriching romp.
Enriquez, J. (2011). Tug‐o‐where: situating mobilities of learning (t)here. Learning, Media and Technology, 36(1), pp. 39-53.