Moving Forward in 2014: The “Helping the Distressed Consciousness” Project
It has been nearly four years since the publication of Robert Whitaker’s book Anatomy of an Epidemic and what are we faced with today in the USA? The Murphy Bill. Psychiatry today is in disarray, as the International Critical Psychiatry Network knows. Where do we go from here?
Since the end of September 2013 I, along with some assistance from Red Lawhern and Jessica Arenella (to whom thank you, particularly Red who has been invaluable with support behind the scenes and who has written here and on DxSummit.org) have been building a community knowledge and discussion map on the subject of psychiatry today, what it might look like tomorrow and possible alternative systems. That map is titled “Helping the Distressed Consciousness” (HDC) and you can find more details on the website. The project is an ongoing volunteer effort and we invite you to join us.
What is a “map” in this context? It’s like an ordinary map where the roads and towns are replaced by links and “pages.” Each “page” can have on it text, links, embedded video, pictures, curated tweets and more. The difference is that it is created using an online service called DebateGraph, is therefore digital and is therefore, for all practical purposes, infinitely expandable.
What is its benefit? The flow of information moving past us is now a torrent. Who doesn’t sometimes wonder if we are living in a world where information flows past us not at a rate we would describe as “24/7” but at a faster rate we could describe as “60/60”? Placing links to newspaper articles, books, blog posts, videos, social network updates and other material on a “map” which also gives you an ability to discuss those materials is an invaluable tool for making sense of this new world. The map also becomes a hub for drawing people into the conversation around how to help the distressed consciousness. By pointing people to particular pages on the map, such as, for example, in answer to a question about the “genetics” ideas of the disease model the reference debategraph.org/hdcgenetics, you can hope they will be drawn into exploring other parts of the map and thus the ideas around the more general topic. Furthermore, if you pointed someone new to the topic to the map they would have, in short order, a good introduction to this particular subject area. Those people could be new researchers or journalists or anybody else who is trying to get a handle on this topic in a short space of time. It works because like a printed map, and unlike a book, you don’t have to absorb everything at once, by reading from beginning to end. You simply navigate to the part you are interested in at any given moment (just like an ordinary map).
What does this mean for 2014? David Price, cofounder of DebateGraph (and I should tell you I am a DebateGraph Associate) is quoted as saying (about another project but with relevance here): “The aim with visual policy maps of this kind is to collaboratively weave together all of the salient proposals and arguments dispersed through the community into a single rich, transparent structure—in which each idea and argument is expressed just once—so that anyone can explore quickly and gain a good sense of the perceived merits of the relevant choices.” What that means for this project is that the map can also be used to create policy and action plans for 2014 and beyond. We have started to do that here. Our hope is that the map can help help people sort out concrete actions plans a little faster than they might otherwise.
So to summarize what I’ve said so far: The map provides an online, navigable structure for locating knowledge, both original and curated material, and can be itself a discussion forum for that material. It also allows a community to eliminate redundancy in thinking as they create action plans. It can be a good introduction to the topic area.