Monday, 12 June 2017

Limits and numbers

"150 people."

Liverpool Arab Arts Festival 2016 Migrant Stories Event
Photo credit: Julia Thorne
Robin Dunbar is smiling at me from my laptop screen. His smile is one that says "I can't believe all this is happening". It is the smile of an Oxbridge anthropology professor, suddenly popular because his ideas are now cool. 

I first heard of Professor Dunbar when reading Malcolm Gladwell's "The Tipping Point". In the book Gladwell describes a the perfect size for human groups. The number 150 is Dunbar's number and somehow relates to the size of our brains.
Apparently our impressive primate brains can really only relate meaningfully to 150 people at at time. More than that, Gladwell argues, and problems start to arise. He describes how the company W.L. Gore and Associates - makers of Gore-tex fabrics and 52 on the Fortune 100 best companies to work for 2017 list - started subdividing it's operations once it reached more than 150 employees.
"Gore understood that workers in a 150-person unit could all know one another, and share a commitment to group goals and values—and that any growth beyond that would change those dynamics." Kevin J. Delaney - Something Weird Happens To Companies When They Hit 150 People
My friends list on Facebook currently stands at 486. No wonder I feel tired.

As this phase of the Handless Project winds down I am thinking about what the project means and what about it could carry on and be beneficial beyond being just about an arts event. We crossed a lot of borders on our walk around the city. We spoke to a lot of people with whom we wouldn't ordinarily meet during our workshops and interviews. That work made me feel free in some ways. It melted some of the psychological and social boundaries that kept me in south and central Liverpool and encouraged me to be optimistic about possible building of community across the whole city. It also made me feel very tired.

Here is my question to you all, if you interacted with THP or not how can we really build community feeling in a way that respects our limits? How can our groups of 150 come together in a way that allows for deep communication? What can we do next?

Tell us your thoughts on twitter using #TheHandlessProject @HandlessProject or on our Facebook page or group.

No comments:

Post a Comment