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  • Writer's pictureJohn Favaro

GRASP - A network of knowledge creation through artful thinking

Updated: Mar 15, 2018

I once heard somewhere that the quantity of knowledge in a week’s worth of New York Times contains more information than a person was likely to come across in a lifetime in the 18th century. I don’t know if that is true but I certainly can agree that the world we are living in is challenging us all with a constant need to update and learn new things in order to stay in the game. 

My background is in art. For more than a decade I lived in and enjoyed the marvelous world of contemporary art in the role of an artist. Then, a little by accident and a lot because of my own intellectual curiosity, I ended up in a totally different kind of environment as a visual business coach in a small company in Milan, Italy. 

Sometimes it happens that life gives you the possibility to meet people from different parts of the world who are passionate about same things that you are. I first met Gabriela Galati an eccentric art historian and researcher from Argentina based in Milan. We both love art as a practice based on research (more about that in future posts). Some years later, Guenter Koch a German computer scientist and management consultant who lives in Vienna introduced me to the concept of ‘multiversity’. Lastly, I had the pleasure to get to know John Favaro, a computer scientist from California, established in Pisa. Also I live at distance from my origins as I grew up in Finland. But we four have more in common than just the fact that we are living far from home. We all are interested in knowledge and artful thinking.

John Favaro, Anja Puntari and Guenter Koch in Vienna in February 2018

A friend once said to me: “It only takes a few like-minded people to change the world”. Well, our ambitions are not that high. It is not our intention to change the world, but we do want to give our contribution in making sense of the world by enabling an active space for reflection on the role of knowledge and immaterial productions in our society today.

The time we are living in has an immaterial character and one of the key abilities, both of individuals and organizations, is the capacity to make sense of what is going on. One of the key concepts in this is Information literacy – i.e. the ability to recognize when information is needed together with the capacity to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information. But knowledge is something more than pure information. Knowledge is about connecting information to values and beliefs and creating something new. The concept of a knowledge society goes beyond pure technological innovation. It has to do with social, cultural, and political change in our current world.

This process is complex and it enters many dimensions of our existence. We are better connected and able to do many things faster, but we also have many new challenges, like how to perceive better what is “true” and what is not. For example, social media creates occasions for emotional jungle beat effects where people lose their ability to think clearly. I think that unconstructively channeled feelings of fear and anger are some of our worst enemies today. I believe that knowledge and the process of being able to understand better makes us stronger. Being more aware helps us to be more prepared.

In fact, what I see in my work today in my role as a person who gives professional support and help to others is that people lose their energy or become emotionally troubled or stressed especially in situations where they do not understand and perceive well what is happening around them.

So what does art have to do with this?

The complexity of our current environment can in many ways be understood through art, as artistic interventions help us to engage in intellectual reflection, to make sense of the world where we are living. Art makes visible and tangible thoughts and ideas. Art helps us to GRASP something that is there right in front of our eyes but that we do not manage to see and touch. 

That is why we decided to create Grasp, a network project whose aim is to explore and to make evident how contemporary immaterial productions such as complex software, mathematics, big data, concepts, financial artifacts, but also artifacts of symbolic value, as is the case of art, and knowledge in a broader sense and behavioral abilities such as competences and soft skills can be visualized, how they are generated and what, in consequence, they induce and produce.

The underlying assumption is that the current state of affairs will also lead to new requirements and options in the development of abilities and competences that are different from those being acquired today through traditional education and permanent learning. 

The importance of the role of art in this context is not only its ability to express both material and immaterial ideas, values, concepts in a non-stereotypical nor literal or illustrative way, but most importantly that certain artistic practices are able to better grasp the contemporary condition and thus allow to “sniff” and intuit the future in order to open a discussion on, and eventually “prepare” us for what is expected to come*.

Got curious and want to participate?

Get in touch with us and let’s see if we can do something together!


President, the GRASP network

*From the mission statement of the GRASP network


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