Purposeful: an Aboriginal principle for Living Data

Since 2013, principles of Living Data have been that what we do is:
True to science, true to senses, surprising (showing something new).

Now another guiding principle comes to mind: Purposeful.
This comes from my experience of Aboriginal cultural arts as having clear and important messages, with playful improvisation performed to support these messages.

So, may these principles now guide Living Data, to reflect both Indigenous and Western perspectives?:

  • True to science
  • True to senses
  • Surprising (showing something new)
  • Purposeful

According to Patrick Nunn (2018, p.25) Aboriginal cultural arts traditionally served the pragmatic purpose of :

“…passing on the wisdom of the ancestors to younger people so that they may survive to one day pass on this knowledge to their children. Knowledge was key to survival; survival is the most basic instinct for living things. With each new generation, new knowledge would be added, resulting – after a thousand years or more – in a formidable body of traditional wisdom. Research suggests that it was grandparents who became key in passing on this wisdom to their grandchildren, removing the obligation from parents who generally had other, more time-demanding roles in such groups…

To engage young people and to encourage them to value and remember this information, it was often embellished – dressed up in arresting clothing. Exaggeration and mythmaking were common, especially in detailing the exploits of distant ancestors – people were giants who strode upon the mland, shaping it, taming it and making it fit for others to occupy… messaging was enhanced through performance…

Traditional storytellers raraly sit still. Often they stand, mimivking the actions of the characters whose exploits they are relating…

…what we often today label escapism may well have developed in our species from simple pragmatism. Our modern predilection for narrative may derive from our attention to survival stories…

… It seems to me that tens of thousands of years ago, our ancestors were never arbitrarily creative. Everything they did was purposeful… early art – cave paintings for instance – was designed to suppliment memory in order to render more effective the understanding of history and geography by each successive generation. As that purpose inevitably declined in urban societies, so such forms of art took on a life of their own, culminating in artworks that even lack obvious meaning…

The pragmatic roots of such [Aboriginal] storytelling have been lost in most of today’s literate cultures, so it is only the other things that remain: narrative, drama and performance for their own sake.”

Are the messages today that are vital for survival, within what we now call science?