In the final chapter of my PhD thesis, I made reference to the usefulness of the Myers-Briggs Typology Indicators (MBTI), as a potential tool for understanding an additional layer in the study of community media. While my knowledge and experience of Jungian-oriented thinking is limited, it felt to me that this might make a potentially interesting future avenue of exploration and thinking. It could be an alternative perspective that cast new light onto old problems.
I find Jung’s basic premise, that we are each motivated by different impulses and concerns, and that we are each oriented differently in the way that we think about and engage with the world. Some of us like to be out and about meeting people, while others are content to reflect and study. The difference that Jung identified between the extrovert and the introvert, the intuitive and the sensing person, and the thinking and valuing person.
After a basic introduction to Jung’s ideas, via the work of the Myers-Briggs expanded framework of sixteen personalities, I though this might be an interesting idea to base future studies of community media around. After all, if we are increasingly fluent at recognising external or bodily diversity, then the next step would be to become fluent in cognitive and psychological diversity.
It is too often unacknowledged in contemporary social life that we have the potential to see the world in different ways, and that the combined dynamic process that these orientations represent will point different people in different directions. Are human capacity is to make the world meaningful in some way, sometimes we will share those meanings, and at other times we will differ in our sensemaking. The trick is not to get hung-up on our own meanings and orientations.
I like to explain the orientations as the difference between being right and left-handed. I happen to be left-handed, so I school I struggled a bit to learn how to play musical instruments or play sports, because the dominant ability was towards right-handedness. When I was shown how to adapt and use my left hand, things became a lot more comfortable, and I was able to engage in the games more easily. I still can’t play a musical instrument, but that is probably more about my lack of patience.
The Myers-Briggs structure, for me, is a good starting point for a conversation, and a good way to help us to recognise some of the differences that we might notice about ourselves and other people. For Jung are personality orientations aren’t fixed, but change over time. We adapt them to the needs of the situation, our age and the social expectations that are placed upon us.
That’s not to say that we don’t have a preference that we will resort to when we are under pressure, and as Jung pointed out, when we are ego-depleted or forced to act in a way that goes against the grain of our personality orientations, then we might struggle and find ourselves reacting to our circumstances with a shorter attention span, a sense of indignation or a narrowing of our tolerance for certain kinds of people and situations. When we are aware of our preferences then we can adapt to them.
Jung pointed out that our psyche is both a personal and individual property of our being, but he added that there is also a social aspect to this, in the form of what Jung called the collective unconscious. We all share social and cultural psychic structures, Jung argued, that operate through sets of processes that are largely beyond our individual control, and which repeat archetypal patterns of behaviour that are played out repeatedly across different forms of society.
In contemporary society the highest virtues that are expected of people are about self-reliance, individual determination and getting by on how you sell yourself to other people. In other words, contemporary Western society is dominated by the collective need to project our personalities onto others in order to achieve power and get something we want.
Jung’s brilliance, though, was to recognise that these projections are themselves driven by our inner complexes which come from our unconscious. So, the need to succeed is projected in the form of needing to be seen as a winner at all costs, despite what it takes for us personally or collectively. Likewise, the desire to put our personal stamp on our communications on social media, is a projection of our complex associated with the fear of missing out, or FOMO is it has been called in our most recent social media experiences.
Now, what does this have to do with community media? I proposed in the conclusion to my thesis that future work that might help us to understand the role of community media, might benefit from taking some of these ideas into account. My suggestion was to use the sixteen personalities model, using the MBTI typographies, to map and attempt to understand why the distribution of community media activists is as it is?
Why is it that when it comes to engaging people in the process of growing and developing community media projects and work, people either do or don’t respond to what is being asked of them? Why do certain kinds of people get involved, but others don’t? What is the spread and likelihood that those people come from one dominant set of orientations and others don’t?
What are the implications for the development of community media if this is demonstrable? For example, one might expect that the Champion personality orientation would be widespread in community media practices. However, it is likely that the it might be full or Promoters or Supervisors. Who knows until we start to look at the spread of personalities in different situations.
Clearly, I’m not about to out and test everyone I meet to see what personality orientation they fit with, but I can keep it in mind as I’m talking with different people for the Decentered Media podcast, and as I try to expand the conversation to include different people in the process, not just those that I am naturally comfortable with. As I’m INFJ that tends to be those who are grouped together as idealists. That’s the Teachers, Councillors, Champions and Healers.
For me, Jung’s principles make sense in a deeply intuitive way, which I find difficult to explain. If anyone wants to share their experiences with Jungian principles, or with the MBTI framework, then it would be great to have a conversation about it, and find out more.