Exploring Human Values

20 years ago today, in the morning I attended my first Spiral Dynamics workshop in Melbourne, Australia. Dr Don Edward Beck and the late Chris Cowan ran the workshop: one of the last that they would do together. Beck is a PhD student of the social judgment psychologist Muzafer Sherif and is a ‘big picture’ geopolitical thinker; Cowan had a counselling background and was able to situate biopsychosocial systems models in terms of practical life advice. I had just interviewed both Beck and Cowan for my Marketing Magazine cover-story ‘The Advertising Virus‘. I would liaise with Beck until about 2004; I attended several of Cowan’s SD I and II training sessions and corresponded with him until he passed away.


In the afternoon I corresponded with Connell Monette (now Associate Professor at Al Akhawayn University) about our respective research. We discussed the Bektashi and Naqshbandiyya Sufi Orders. At the time, I was reading a secondhand copy of Hasan Shusud’s Masters of Wisdom of Central Asia on the Naqshbandiyya Order. I had also read Idries Shah and received the zikr from Dr Brian and Nina Earl, who were students of Gurdjieff pupil John Godolphin Bennett. I had circled around mystical Islam for several years; unaware of the Deobandi and Salafi jihadist events unfolding in Afghanistan at the time that would later lead to 11th September 2001.

The Advertising Virus

20 years ago, Australia’s Marketing Magazine published my first cover-story: The Advertising Virus on advertising and memes. The article featured interviews with Richard Brodie, and Spiral Dynamics authors Don Edward Beck and Chris Cowan. I later republished the article on the Disinformation website (archived here with some dead links). It will be featured in my forthcoming ebook of 1994-97 New Journalism, Personal Mythologists.

New Academic CV and Publications Track Record

I have a new Academic CV and Publications track record (PDF).


The document integrates for the first time my academic research; PhD and Masters studies; Disinformation website work (mainly from my first editorial and writing tenure in 1998-2003); journalism; and subculture research. There are some known gaps in the publications history – notably the Black Box magazine project in 2002, two small REVelation excerpts in 1996-97, and many more Rabelais student journalism articles / reviews from 1994. It’s as near complete a list that I’m likely to get – unless I do further archival work. Many of the Disinformation articles in 1998-2003 are available at Archive.org. Much of the academic research is available from this website or in the specific academic journals.


A personal reflection:


I spent much of my first decade of public writing as a freelance journalist, subcultural researcher, website editor / writer during the end of the dotcom speculative bubble, and then in the Swinburne University Masters program in strategic foresight. This period covered several phases: (1) a 1994-95 period of primarily New Journalism experimentation; (2) a 1996-97 period of immersive subculture research and magazine articles which largely ended in March 1998; (3) a 19998-2003 period of my first Disinformation editorial tenure; and (4) my 2002-04 Masters studies which were largely a reflection cycle on the prior periods and the lessons I had learned. This period transitioned when I joined the Smart Internet Technology CRC research consortium in December 2003.


I spent my second decade as a researcher; pivoted into research management; did Masters and early PhD work on counterterrorism and political science; and then collaborated with others on academic research. This period covered several phases: (1) a 2003-2007 period of Smart Internet Technology CRC research in which I also pivoted out of doing magazine research due to employment contract restrictions; (2) a 2007-09 pivot period of moving into research management and transitioning my academic research career into political science; (3) a 2010-14 period of collaborative research articles; and (4) a 2009-present period of focus on PhD research about pattern languages and strategic culture, and applied research on hedge funds / terrorist organisations as strategic subcultures.


Collectively, I put in 10,000 hours of deliberate practice over the 20-year period in journalism and research. The 1994-95 period of New Journalism was skills acquisition and experimentation. The 1996-97 period of subculture research benefited from close work with several talented magazine editors, and led to new insights during the 2003-07 period at the Smart Internet Technology CRC. This was a period in which I enjoyed a brief publicly visible profile as an editor and writer. The 1998-2003 period at Disinformation led to a renewed focus in 2009 on event arbitrage and understanding hedge fund strategies. I experienced personal crises in 1997 and in 2006-07 over financial and ‘decision to publish’ issues that led to life-changing pivots. The 2002-04 and 2007-09 periods were active reflection cycles on these pivots. In Spiral Dynamics terms, the 20-year timeframe of writing involved several sequences of skills cultivation (Alpha new state), rapid growth (Delta surge), life crisis (Gamma Trap problems), and pivot to new opportunities (alternation of Beta questioning and new Delta surge).


This 20-year writing arc has led to a current personal synthesis: (1) PhD and recent academic publications as a new phase of skills building; (2) applied research as a strategy to address the life circumstances of the 1997 and 2006-07 crises; and (3) this blog as a way to capture and communicate some of these ideas to a public audience. My writing is more focused and often more private. I publish more slowly in academic journals than in past internet and magazine work. I work with a smaller group of collaborators. I have a more sustainable daily routine.


I’m grateful for the past experiences. I’m looking forward to sharing new writings in the future with you.

22nd June 2012: Dr. Geoff Mayer

La Trobe University is cutting 45 academics from its arts and humanities programs.


I was sorry to read that Dr. Geoff Mayer will be one of them. I took several of Mayer’s classes as a cinema studies undergraduate, notably in Pre-Code cinema, film noir and western genre films. These classes taught me how film form and genre conventions can change over time and how this may reflect changes in social values. Mayer’s classes informed a 1998 proposal on Spiral Dynamics and cinema studies (PDF), a 2002 presentation on Integral theory and film (PDF), a 2003 essay on film and epistemic frameworks in futures studies (PDF), and a 2003 seminar on Spiral Dynamics that used DVD film clips (PDF). Mayer brought senior leadership and research insights to La Trobe’s cinema studies program for over a decade, and his mentoring, warmth and humour will be missed.