Community Media Archetypal Roles

In establishing the importance of archetypal structures and patterns within the collective unconscious, it’s necessary to start to look at how these roles can be mapped and differentiated within a range of social situations and places. The starting point, as previously noted, is to consider the “mysterious flow of events,” rather than seek to determine any fixed categories or delineated objects. As Jung argues, the collective unconscious is not something static, but changes dynamically over time. This is what has been referred to in previous posts as socialmeaning. Marie-Louise von Franz summarises Jung’s insight when she notes that archetypes change, adapt and vary “over long periods of time.” Von Franz points out that some archetypal patterns, in contrast to other archetypal patterns, are likely to constellate “within the zeitgeist.” Which means, that at certain points in our social and cultural development, some patterns of archetypal structure are dominant or more prevalent than others.

This raises a question, according to von Franz, about the extent to which we can say whether behind this process of constellation of archetypes there is something else that determines the “character of a given historical period” through which “some lawful principle of order can be detected,” or as is probable, it is “blind chance that reigns” (Franz, 1999, p. 285). It’s not the intention here, however, to address the verification of this model of archetypal historical change here, for that we might consider the work of others, such as Arnold Toynbee (Toynbee, 1946). Instead, the intention is simply to sketch a preliminary outline and snapshot of one narrow situation that might be considered as a temporary constellation of useful archetypal indicators and figures, namely those commonly associated with the milieu of community media.

The preliminary hope is that this study forms part of a wider set of metamodern developmental process that seeks to understand and change the framing that we use to inform our models of community media, so that they can be used in later analysis and planning, keeping in mind that every intention has to have a starting point, and so this is one among many potential candidates. So, while most journeys are best started from a superior vantage point, they also have to start somewhere, however imperfect and unsuited it might be. This journey seeks, therefore, to understand and explain how community media is constellated through specific archetypal patterns, specific archetypal roles and specific archetypal stories.

These archetypal configurations may add, it is hoped, an additional dimension to our thinking about the role and purpose of community media. It is hoped that these archetypal stories will enable us to consider people’s intentions and motivations in new – or even ancient – ways. It will be beneficial to gain a greater understanding of the transformations that people experience in the different community media situations they face, and to gain a greater sense of what and who they are becoming in the process. So, rather than simply observing their behaviours and their external characteristics and noting them, we may learn from them and apply the lessons to our own situations and concerns.

While there are many levels at with archetypal cultural formations, roles and patterns may be considered, this initial outline will stick to a rudimentary and basic grounding. This straightforward mapping isn’t faulty, rather, it is an indication of the tentative steps that are needed to get the process moving forward. The advice and knowledge of those that are referred to here are clearly expert and well informed. The use that they are put to, however, is simply a beginning and an underpinning for our wider project. Like a sailor undertaking their first solo voyage across the ocean, we are dependent on the expert mapping of those who have preceded us. Our navigation may be perilous and circuitous, but the maps and the charts that we are dependent on are capable of showing the features and the flows of the ocean scene around us. The tides and islands are well plotted, if only we are able to read the maps.

The starting point, then, is to draw upon the archetypal roles and ideas that have been offered by Margaret Mark and Carol Pearson in their adaptation of archetypal roles within the field of marketing communications (Mark & Pearson, 2001). While we might rightly suggest that any commercial or transactional concern will go against that which is mysterious and numinous in our symbolic life, the archetypal constellation that Mark and Pearson draw on is well founded. Based as it is in the reoccurring patterns of the many forms of art, literature, myth and fables that we are attuned to in the contemporary mediatised world. These stories show us, according to Mark and Pearson, how the deep psychic imprints that are embed in our media are correlated, and have common roots and structures. It’s just that they are choosing to use this insight for the benefit of selling products and services, which if done ethically and responsibly, is entirely appropriate.

In summary, the argument is that the social and interpersonal expressions that we see within our media fit within the archetypal imprints, or fields of operations, of our established media culture. This includes and encompasses the roles, stories, myths and other expressions of the collective unconscious that is part of the media ecology. It also includes the production practices, economies and social interactions that people are undertaking and articulatng. Our media is formed with archetypal predispositions structuring it. The people who are involved and concerned with producing our media contribute to, and shap this media content and cultures agaist the backdrop of the wider psychic and archetypal imprint. They are holders of archetypal roles, and are seeking to fulfil archetypal motivations. The people that are given recognition, credence and validity for their performance in these roles, tend to be the people who define the mediatised world as a meaningful place. They set the boundaries of discourse, the expected patterns of behaviour and the framework for cognitive recognition through the process of social mimesis and cultural leadership.

The twelve archetypal roles, as noted by Mark and Pearson, include:

  • The Innocent
  • The Orphan
  • The Hero
  • The Caregiver
  • The Explorer
  • The Rebel
  • The Lover
  • The Creator
  • The Jester
  • The Sage
  • The Magician
  • The Ruler” (Mark & Pearson, 2001, p. 13).

Each of these roles can be fleshed out and performed to a greater or lesser extent in each of the contexts in which they are found. In the community media milieu, they carry with them a set of indicating and observable attributes and behaviours. So, we might expect to see, for example, The Sage, expressing wisdom and knowledge through didactic forms of social engagement and writing. We might expect to see The Caregiver attending and guarding others, especially those who are not able to protect or look after themselves. The Rebel, alternatively, may be someone that we expect to be dismissive of rules and social norms, and who takes pleasure in overturning conventions by going against the grain of popular sentiment. The Joker or Trickster, on the other hand, is someone who finds meaning in how they create chaos and disruption of the established routines of a community, by turning social conventions on their heads.

It is not to say that each of these archetypal roles are something by we are permanently defined, or are perpetually shaped, in the way that biscuits are shaped by the cookie-cutter that forms them. As humans, our sense of self is developmental. It grows. We are initiated into different stages of life and their changing and variable states of being. We prosper when we recognise that we are suited to some forms of social engagement more so than others. We change and vary. We move between roles that are culturally specific, that are time and experience bound, and which are subject to the developmental changes we experience  as our social circumstances change. To this process we bring with us our unique gifts, talents and insights. What these archetypal roles can be said to provide, as we grow, is something more purposeful of ourselves. We get to show more of what we can offer. The more nurturing our environment, therefore, and the more integrated we are with the different elements of psyche and self, then the greater chance we have to fit with and understand, perhaps even influence, the prevailing spirit of our times – the weltanschauung or zeitgeist.

The zeitgeist of each age is defined by a set of psychic predispositions held within the collective unconscious. These archetypal predispositions help to guide and structure our individual choices, responses and creative actions, as they are enacted within the field of archetypal structuring. Caregivers, for example, may be drawn or called to certain professions, whereas others may be drawn elsewhere, to law enforcement, or science, or the arts for example. This does not mean that everyone who enters the caring professions is caring, or that every person employed in education is a teacher. These professions are as likely to be populated with people who have a predisposition for engineering or judging, as opposed to caring. They are still able to prosper in a modern, industrialised and technically-founded institutions, perhaps more so given the rate of technical institutional and instrumental management change of late.

Moreover, the propensity to feel comfortable within a role, and to feel committed to the social persona that is associated with that role, is usually an unconscious expectation of our collective activity. Call it peer pressure or stereotyping, we can all reflect on our experiences when we follow rules and expectations demonstrating social conformity. Anyone who struggles to fit into a role, however, or who struggles to feel that they might be accepted in a particular role, can readily attest to the difficulty of matching the archetypal social expectations with their own personal inner experiences. This is increasingly trying in modern Western culture which values individualism above other forms of social integration. The challenge of trying to be a square peg in a round hole is taxing and ego depleting. Anyone who seeks to undertake a leadership role knows the difficulty of changing expectations as the dynamic of authority is embodied around them. This becomes apparent wheh the paraphernalia of office is conferred on them, and other people’s expectations about them are altered and reshaped accordingly to recognise their new socially designated authority and position of leadership.

What Jung teaches us, however, is that we should not be so concerned with the persona of a person undertaking a role. If our psyche or soul is left unattended, Jung warns, it will become unbalanced and neurotic,. We see this in people in a leadership position, such as Trum in the USA or Johnson here in the UK, who are either narcissistic on the one hand, or slothful on the other. Instead, according to Jung, we should look at the motivations and the intentions that are potential and intended when we think about archetypal roles. Principally, we should be thinking of one another in terms of what we are attempting to fulfil and nurture, what we are inteding to become, not what we are able to get from others, or make others do for us in our own intestes and not theirs.

As mapped by Mark and Pearson, then, these differences can be illustrated if we consider the extent to which we aspire to a sense of fulfilment on one side of this motivational dynamic, or as we drawn to an extended sense of ennui on the other. Are we interested in stability and control, or are we concerned with belonging and enjoyment? Are we concerned with seeking mastery of risk, or are we seeking to enhance our independence and sense of social fulfilment? Each suggests a pull towards an competing dynamic and set of anatgonistic psychic forces that needed to fully be held and expressed. Contrary to the behaviourist models of human motivation, these dispositions are not held to be value free. They are not the expressions of animalistic instinct and materialistic goal setting. In Jung’s view they are grounded in their perceived and intended social purpose, their genius or lapis (i.e. founding stone). They carry with them an ethical dimension in which responsibility is equally balanced and attuned with satisfaction.

Each of the motivating dispositions, then, can be used to pursue good or ill. Each can be used to bring about healing or harm. How we choose to implement them, and to support others in seeking to implement them, is our life’s work. A desire for stability, for example, can come at the expense of creative innovation, as variables and mutations of open and freeflowing social interaction are smothered. Rebels, artists and other iconoclastic thinkers and performers are often stifled in authoritarian and politically oppressive social regimes because they do not conform to the archetype for unity or a singualr sense of identity. Alternatively, a desire to seek unconstrained hedonistic enjoyment and pleasure is broadly recognised as the harbinger of self-destruction and an indicator of the implosion of psychic social order. In a word without social restraint, chaos and anarchy are a continually present fear, and have been predicted many times as the harbingers of the apocalypse. As Yates attested in The Second Coming

Turning and turning in the widening gyre   
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere   
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst   
Are full of passionate intensity.

Those that willfully exclude others from playing a full and active role in life and society, while guilty of sinful crime, may be doing so because they believe they are rightous in their determination to secure a cohesive society. A society in which they feel they, and their kind, can belong. This is often at the expense of a defined and demonised group of others: black, gays, gypsies and so on. The intention may therefore not match the outcome. Lastly, those who seek their independence from an oppressive social order, and who are told that they don’t know their place, are easily ostracised for being contentious and belligerent. Social regulation, as defined by archetypal interactions, is not linear and straightforward. It is characterised in both the light and the shadow. As Jung taught us, archetypal and mythical stories are as much about strife and the endurance of pain and suffering, as they are about transformation and the obtaining of magical rewards.

If we take a look, then, at the relationships and correspondences, the dynamic interaction between these archetypal motivational groupings, we can start to discern long-standing patterns of behaviour and association that are structured into our collective unconscious. If we ask, for example, what it is that we yearn for in our souls, we give flight to a very different sets of ideas, beliefs and social values, than if we ask what we are seeking to get, what goals we want to meet and what sort of social status we want to be regarded by. Do we yearn for a utopian paradise? This is something that both people of faith and materialists are drawn towards. Do we want to provide structure to the world? This is something that ecologists and social totalitarians have been accused of seeking to do in extreme ways when they can’t tolerate alternatives. Do we want to connect with others, to feel harmonious and part of a social whole? We’ve been reminded of the importance of this in our recent lockdown. Or, do we want to leave a mark on the world? Do we want to leave something behind that will be remembered? A work of art, a place to live? Something to listen to? Something to read?

The contention here, then, is that we will achieve a greater sense of understanding about the purpose of community media, its challenges and requirements, if we can ask and listen to what people tell us about what they are drawn to in their souls. Too often we observe the outward nature of our engagement with one another, but we are not asking questions about, or listening to, what we are told about the inner needs which will bring about fulfilment and a meaningful existence. What does it mean to belong? What does it mean to participate? What does it mean to express oneself creatively and purposefully? This is the task that we must turn ourselves towards. And we must do it by telling mythical stories of love, heroism, caring, knowledge, innocence, and all of the other archetypal stages and impulses that we navigate in our journey towards individuation.


Liked it? Take a second to support Decentered Media on Patreon!