Biodiversity / Innovation / Uncategorized

The song of whales: Creativity, distinctiveness and collaboration through

Sea of Love by Torgeir Husevaag

While conducting a literature review on the informal economy, I came across a very interesting research paper “Can the Hidden Economy Be Revolutionary? Toward a Dialectical Analysis of the Relations Between Formal and Informal Economies”. It was published in 1988 by Stuart Henry in the journal Social Justice (Vol. 15, No.3-4). What caughte my attention, before realising the paper’s relevance for my work, was the paper’s introduction: Henry had paraphrased a 1982 BBC contribution by David Attenborough about the songs of whales:

“It has been observed by marine biologists that whale songs have a characteristic form for each school of whales; that if whale songs are recorded on one day and then on another, the same school has the same song. However, when biologists return to record that school’s song, say one year later, the song is completely different. The explanation for this change is that the characteristic song is the result of individual whales hearing and sharing the singing of each other’s song; each rendition is shaped by the constraints of the total structure that is the whale song. But at the same time, each individual whale has enough autonomy to add small variations and innovations to the main theme; the structure of the whale song is a resource enabling each individual and unique whale to act creatively within it. This creative action is not enough to completely transform the song. That is and remains the total medium; but it is enough to change it just a little. Other whales in the school pick up the general song, which now incorporates the slight modifications, and go through the same creative process in their reproduction. The result is that after a period of time, the micro contributions of the individual whales succeed in transforming the very totality which has given and continues to give shape and general direction to their individual action.”

What an outstanding example of complex collaborative creativity. Each individual whale’s contributions is merged with the entirety of an ever changing song that resembles a melody of generations, maybe since the beginning of time (whale time at least). The song shared by a school of whales at this moment in time has never been exactly the same before and will never be exactly the same in future. Its melody contains a shared collective memory of ancestors’ contributions ever more expanding in time.

If only we could learn from what this group of animals can teach us. Traditional knowledge and innovative ideas would not get lost and we would share and build upon each other’s contributions without having to repeat the same efforts twice or many more times.

Following the kho kho model of open innovation, by SRISTI can be regarded as a profound step towards collecting and sharing contributions for a giant open database of collaborative innovative efforts. These can be interactively expanded across sectors, spaces, social structures and time. Techpedia allows actors to collaborate and learn from each other without having to make the same effort twice.

After one year of being operational, the platform contains more than 100,000 projects done by 350,000 technology students [mainly final year engineering students] from over 500 institutions including IITs, NITs and many other colleges in India. And after such a short period of time, it can only resemble a scratch on the surface.  Just imagine the amount of collaborative innovations such a platform might enable in future when more and more actors from different sectors become aware of its value for solving problems of micro, small, and medium enterprises and grassroots innovators in the informal economy with the help of thousands of talented technology students.

Techpedia may bridge existing gaps and contribute to the formation of bright, hard working teams solving the long standing problems of our society. For a more sustainable, (bio-)diverse and inclusive future. And for the survival of a distinct song created through the collaborative efforts of generations of whales.



Find Techpedia at

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