University of Earth Union of Imaginable Associations Cognitive Fusion Reactor (ITER-8) Union of the Whys
University of Earth
6th June 2007

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)


In considering the possibility of providing meaningful answers to the following questions, it is useful to be clear about the unconventional nature of this initiative. This is indicated on the home page -- clarifying explanations and documents are also accessible from the pull-down menus (above). These all suggest that conventional answers to the following questions would be misleading. Especially significant is the extent to which the questioner has a degree of responsibility for the significance that can be attached to any answer.

There is a particular challenge to reframing any question+answer to enhance its significance -- beyond that associated with conventional understanding of the following questions or the patterns of response they typically evoke. In this sense this FAQ deliberately evokes the possibility of "out-of-the-box" reframing of both question and answer such as to avoid reinforcing essentially uncreative (if not boring) patterns of significance.

To the extent that the following questions imply a binary logic in the preference for answers, it is useful to recognize the existence of logical frameworks (common to other cultures) that may be more appropriate. Specifically it may not be a matter of whether an answer is "A" or "B", rather the appropriate answer may be "A and B" -- or even "neither A nor B". A binary logic may itself be questionable in understanding unconventional initiatives.


Does the University of Earth really exist?
Is the University of Earth an essentially imaginary initiative?
What does the University of Earth do? What are its projects?
Who are the members of the University of Earth?
Is the University of Earth a secret society or cult?
Is the University of Earth accredited by any authority -- or to any authority?
To whom is the University of Earth accountable?
How is the University of Earth funded?
With what other initiatives is the University of Earth partnered?
How can I -- or my group -- become involved in the University of Earth?
How can I assist (collaborate with) the University of Earth?


Does the University of Earth really exist?

Conventional responses to this question would focus on whether it has been duly constituted as a de facto or de jure organization, with appropriate statutes. However the clarifying documents specifically challenge the unfruitful constraint of such understandings of "existence" -- especially in the increasingly virtualized world of cyberspace (cf Consciously Self-reflexive Global Initiatives: Renaissance zones, complex adaptive systems, and third order organizations).

Clearly it exists as an idea, but the question is how to understand the nature of the form to which the idea has given expression. That such a framing is non-trivial may be seen in the recognition that al-Qa'ida needs to be understood as essentially an idea which inspires various forms of expression. This is indicative of the extent to which collective initiatives can be understood to exist primarily as a potential threat -- inviting consideration of the manner of existence of an initiative that constituted a potential hope.

To the extent that life on Earth can, for all concerned, be understood as a process of life-long education, there can be no question that the University of Earth exists in some form.

Perhaps an appropriate question in response -- consistent with the emphasis of the initiative -- would be how do you imagine it might exist such that you would find the manner of its existence meaningful?

Is the University of Earth an essentially imaginary initiative?

Any response to such a question would itself raises the question of the role of imagination in the construction of social reality in an emerging knowledge society. For any initiative to be viable, significant and successful in some measure, it must necessarily have an imaginative, if not imaginary, dimension. It is this that is the focus of image management -- now essential to the viability of social undertakings in a a world dependent on the communications media.

As to whether it is "essentially" imaginary, this would again depend on understandings of "essential". Archetypal, atemporal patterns governing social processes may be fruitfully understood as essentially imaginary attractors (as attractive dimensions of culture and identity), whether or not they are "only" imaginary.

What does the University of Earth do? What are its projects?

What are the learning, educational and research processes fundamental to the University of Earth?

Any meaningful answer is again dependent on understanding of the forms of "doing" that are meaningful to the questioner in a society dominated by "busyness" and tormented by failed initiatives -- or by the tragic consequences of those considered successful.

The manner of action of the University of Earth is in some measure a direct challenge to the conventional mindset which gives rise to "projects". Specifically it acts such as to avoid consequences implied by the related term "projectile" -- especially when the project has "targets" that may be other entities on which "impact" is sought that may be unsolicited and undesired. In avoiding such "project logic", the University of Earth is also sensitive to its own "projections" in recognizing and responding to "objects" as a "subject" -- an intersubjective collectivity.

Some provisional indications of the themes explored by the University of Earth are available from a pull-down menu (above).

Who are the members of the University of Earth?

Membership is typically a matter of convention -- however formalized, if at all. The United Nations claims to act on behalf of "We the peoples..." however remote (or meaningless) this membership is to individuals of the world community who are thereby associated with that enterprise.

In the case of a University of Earth, should the question distinguish between students, graduates faculty alumni?

A more challenging way of formulating the question is in terms of the nature and role of any member of such an initiative -- especially in sustaining any sense of collective identity. In terms of the continuing erosion of collective memory, to what extent is membership defined by the capacity to "re-member" the initiative -- perhaps in terms of "re-membering" its archetypal significance?

Is the University of Earth a secret society or cult?

Clearly for enthusiasts of conspiracy theory it could be imagined to be so.

Increasingly it is recognized that any initiative -- even the most conventional -- depends for its coherence on the cultivation of a particular culture. If this is unusual, the culture may then be framed pejoratively as a "cult". Provocatively it might even be asked the extent to which institutions most opposed to change do not themselves cultivate cultures which merit the description of "cult-like" by outsiders. Similar points could be made with respect to "secrecy" when many institutions go to great lengths to ensure confidentiality. Even those within them may be sensitive to the existence of "inner circles" of the better informed often caricatured as a "mafia".

A more interesting response might take account of the extent to which the very frustration with the lack of conventional answers to conventional questions transforms that which has not been understood into assumptions about the core beliefs of an initiative -- then necessarily understood as secretive and cult-like.

To what extent is the University of Earth an open secret -- possibly conceptually akin to a joke that has not been understood? And which it would be counterproductive to try to explain? Any response should recognize the extent to which the viability of many conventional initiatives is sustained by the kind of secret caricatured in the tale of the Emperor's New Clothes -- a situation beyond a joke, given the variety of emerging challenges.

Is the University of Earth accredited by any authority -- or to any authority?

The use of of "un" in www.un-terra.org does not signify that the University of Earth is in any way accredited to the United Nations, or related to it in any way -- or to any bodies associated with it such as the United Nations University or the UN-manadated University for Peace. If anything, as indicated with respect to that web domain, that prefix is partly intended to point to the possibility that any United Nations of the future might specifically consider how it might be associated with some such imaginative response to enhancing psycho-social energy.

The conventional process of accreditation is however especially problematic in that it implies approval from a conventional body with regard to an initiative which engages imaginatively with the possibilities of new, and necessarily unconventional, forms of action. Any such approval would then imply that the initiative reflected criteria for credibility determined in the past -- and sustained by a mindset of that time. These determinants could be considered to be engendering the problems of the present rather than enabling remedies appropriate for the future. In that sense acceditation is a guarantee of the absence of significant innovation. This is a particular challenge for a research and learning initiative endeavouring to respond rapidly to emerging insights, whatever their source..

The question might however be fruitfully understood as to whether the University of Earth could in any way be considered a credit to such an authority or to those who engage in the initiative. This raises the issue of what constitutes credibility and who needs it to be determined for them by others. What kinds of initiative need to have credibility accorded to them?

To whom is the University of Earth accountable?

Following valiant efforts to ensure an international rule of law, notably based on declarations and conventions on human rights, recent years have seen these provisions severely undermined by authorities seeking to respond to threats to the security, values and way of life of their constituencies. In doing so, notably through subterfuge, they are now recognized to have severely undermined their own ethical standards. The threats to security -- whether real, imagined or fabricated -- are expected to increase in the increasingly turbulent environment of the 21st century. It is therefore increasingly inappropriate to rely on any form of accountability to such authorities.

It is noteworthy that past efforts to articulate civil and collective rights have not been successfully matched by efforts to articulate patterns of responsibility -- even amongst those of highest authority. Failure to respect those that have been elaborated is especially significant.

However, precisely in an effort to respond to a turbulent environment, the University of Earth explores new patterns of checks and balances capable of embodying values to which conventional authorities are no longer capable of proving they are subscribing in practice -- whatever is claimed for public relations purposes. In this sense, for it to function as an essentially self-reflexive initiative, the University of Earth is necessarily about accountability processes and what they imply for emergent forms of organization of collective initiatives.

How is the University of Earth funded?

Again this implies a preoccupation with financial resources conceived as fundamental to sustaining initiatives of any significance. Understanding how it is sustained might however be dependent on understanding the nature of initiatives in which funding is a secondary consideration. This is notably a characteristic of many creative environments.

More provocatively the relationship between funding, fundamental and fun might be fruitfully explored. To what extent is an initiative fundamentally dependent on fun to be contrasted with one that is "fun-dead"?

Given that "funds" are merely tokens of degrees of mutual confidence and trust in psychosocial systems, by what other tokens can the integrity of collective initiatives be sustained? Metaphorically, given how plants (and ultimately the biosphere) are sustained by light and photosynthesis, to what extent are psychosocial entities (and ultimately the noosphere) sustained by some analogue to light -- for which the excitement of imaginative creativity might correspond to photosynthesis?

With what other initiatives is the University of Earth partnered?

The pull-down menu on "context" (above) identifies some significant relationships with other initiatives, notably the complementary Union of Imaginable Associations, Cognitive Fusion Reactor (ITER-8) and Union of the Whys.

In the larger scheme of things, strategic initiatives co-evolve and contribute to framing the environment in which that is possible and within which new initiatives may emerge as a consequence.

Focusing on conventional understandings of partnership -- coalitions of initiatives with shared values -- obscures subtler forms of mutual reinforcement essential to the viability of such initiatives. This may be framed in terms of solidarity. But the implied rigidity of this metaphor inhibits recognition of the dynamic resonance between initiatives that resists the rigid bonding of conventional solidarity.

How can I -- or my group -- become involved in the University of Earth?

Indeed. How might you imagine doing so -- and why?

How can I assist (collaborate with) the University of Earth?

Indeed. How might you imagine doing so -- and why?


In the light of this FAQ, if you are interested in the further development of the work of the emergent University of Earth initiative, further information may be currently available from info.terra@laetusinpraesens.org

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