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 Post subject: Worldview (DCulFS)
PostPosted: Mon Sep 24, 2012 8:38 pm 
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Our first phase in fractalling your fantasy cultures looks at the very nebulous heart of a culture, the worldview. This is one of the most important (and often the most forgotten) aspects of your fantasy cultures, it is the essence of how they understand the world around them, what it looks like from there perspectives. In fact, worldview is so intuitive that for the most part humans are relatively unaware of our worldview until it encounters contradiction. And that subconscious, intuitive nature of worldview makes it impossible to ever fully map out and grasp with the conscious mind. So instead, I’ve picked out four components of worldview that I think most valuable to a worldbuilder. But I must warn you that this stage takes a very outside-looking-in perspective, meaning the things you’ll see as you look at your world’s cultures’ worldviews are things that the members of your culture would not be consciously aware of. Your worldview is a very instinctive part of your culture that you wouldn’t be able to just verbalize in as analytical a matter as we’re doing here. So, don’t go overboard on this stage. This is just an exercise to help you mull over some of the unconscious, driving views of your culture.

Step 1: The World
Essentially, worldview is how you view the world. And that view is greatly influenced by the world that you are viewing. So in this step, we’re going to look at the world in which your culture lives and how that world shapes their worldview. We’re going to look at this in two sections: Geo-physical Environment and Socio-historical Environment.
  • Geo-Physical Environment
    The physical world that your culture lives in day-after-day can shape their worldview in ways that persist in the culture for centuries in spite of relocation or technological advances.
    • What is the climate like where your culture lives? This can have a very instinctive impact on every level of your culture. A desert culture where the wind can bring sandy death at any moment and where the sun above bears down unrelenting heat would not view the sky/heavens as a home to benevolent forces, and would probably have a pretty high view of water, which would be equated with life. So what climate does your culture live in? Tropical plains? Arid desert? If your culture is fairly wide-spread then keep in mind that it will change to reflect it’s environment wherever it is.
    • What climate did your culture originate in? While it’s true that culture changes as it moves around, there are views and beliefs within that culture that can withstand centuries of change and those views would be shaped by the environment that the culture was first born into.
    • What types of terrain most surround your culture? What is the landscape of your culture like? This can often have a strong subliminal influence on your culture’s worldview. For instance, mountains play a major part in Hindu and other eastern religions that were born in and around the colossal Himalayas, and to the Greeks whose island homes were surrounded by water, the entire cosmos was encircled by the river Oceanus.
    • What types of plants are familiar to your culture?
    • What animals are familiar to your culture? These often reflect deeply in the symbolism that your culture uses. For instance, if the seagull was the only type of bird that your culture ever encountered, it might be their symbol of the strong noble king of the skies instead of the eagle or such.
      • What are the predators of your culture’s world?
      • What are the food animals of your culture’s world?
      • What animals has your culture domesticated?
      • What animals are considered vermin by your culture?
      • What animals are revered and what animals are feared by your culture?
    • What type of society is your culture? Hunter-gatherer? Agrarian? Pastoral? Coastal/Fishing? Do they move around alot and experience a variety of environments or stay pretty much in the same place? The answer to this question will also help you get an understanding of what they rely on their environment for. For example, agrarian societies rely on rain for the crops to grow, but not too much, and long thaws for a good growing season. Hunter-gatherers rely on the land for large animal populations to feed them and plenty of natural vegetation for foraging. Fishing/coastal communities rely on smooth seas and large fish populations. This brings us to our next question…
    • What natural resources does your culture rely on and how naturally accessible are they? For instance, both the Ancient Egyptians and the Ancient Sumerians were mostly agrarian societies and both needed water for their crops. The Egyptians however had the Nile which flooded seasonally and predictably each year, while the Sumerians had the Euphrates and the Tigris rivers which flooded violently and unpredictably and had very little rain so they had to rely on irrigation to water their fields. So what do the members of your culture need from their environment and how easy/hard is it for them to get it?
      • What types of weather does your culture depend on and how frequent/infrequent are they?
      • How much does your culture rely on rain?
      • What species of wildlife does your culture depend on and how populous are they?
      • What types of plants are important to your culture and how plentiful are they?
    • What natural forces/elements are beneficial to your culture?
    • What natural forces/elements are harmful to your culture
    • Are there any natural forces/elements that your culture depends on but fears at the same time?For example, for coastal/fishing cultures, the sea is the source of food and thus of life, but it’s also a wild uncontrollable force that claims lives without warning.
    • What natural forces/elements mystify the members of your culture and leave them in awe?
  • Socio-Historical Environment
    Here we’re going to look at the shared history of your culture, its members’ shared experiences, and their common place in the larger social structure of the world.
    • What are some of the most impacting natural disasters in your culture’s history? Droughts, earthquakes, hurricanes, etc. You get the picture.
    • What is your culture’s origin/emergence and how might it shape their view of the world? For instance, Rome was originally a city oppressed by Etruscan monarchs, which instilled the Roman people with a distrust of monarchies.
    • What are some of the major political events in your culture’s history? Birth of that culture’s nation? Civil wars? Conquest by a foreign civilization? Conquest of another civilization? Consolidation of warring factions? You get the general gist.
    • What are some of the major events of global significance in your culture’s history?
  • View
    Ok, so we’ve looked at the world your culture lives in, now we’re gonna take a look at the impressions which that world makes on their worldview.
    • How does your culture view the safe-ness of the wider-world?
      • Is the world seen as a big scary place froth with unknown dangers?
      • Is it seen as an exciting place filled with adventures where the dangers are seen as opportunities to prove oneself?
      • Is it seen as a relatively safe place with occasional dangers here and there?
      • Is it viewed with indifference as being of no interest to those inside the cultural microcosm?
      • Is it seen as a neutral place, neither all-safe, nor all-dangerous?
    • How does your culture view the order of the world?
      • Is the world viewed as being chaotic and unpredictable?
      • Is it viewed as being governed by specific and observable laws and thus predictable?
      • Is it viewed as mostly orderly with occasional exceptions?
      • Is it viewed as being governed by secret laws that are beyond the common person’s comprehension?
      • Is it viewed as being able to be basically understood by all people?
      • Is it viewed as wholly incomprehensible and mystifying?
    • What are your culture’s basic views about the natural world?
      • What natural forces does your culture view as good/benevolent/helpful?
      • What natural elements does your culture consider reliable/stable/safe?
      • What natural forces does your culture view as harmful/malignant/cumbersome?
      • What natural elements does your culture view as unreliable/unstable/treacherous?
    • What are your culture’s basic views of outsiders?
      • Are those outside your culture generally viewed negatively (i.e. as treacherous/malicious/ignorant)?
      • Are they generally viewed positively?
      • Are they viewed neutrally?
      • Are they viewed indifferently, as not relevant or important to those inside the microcosm?
      • Are they generally welcome or unwelcome?

Step 2: Identity
This next step looks at your culture’s cultural identity. In fact, it’s one of the most important steps in developing worldview.
However, as important as understanding the social identity of your cultures, it’s also one of the most difficult concepts to break down for a fractal. The main reason for this is because of the complex nature of social identity. I banged my head against the problem of how to break this down for several days and in the end it took several attempts and two mind maps to help clear things up.

For our purposes, I think it most helpful to think of Social identity in two ways. The first is to look at it as a series of concentric circles, each representing a group that we as people identify with. Something like this:
Image
Now you’ll notice fairly quickly that I have a solid line separating “Humanity” from “living things” while the other layers have broken lines. The reason for this is that there is a fairly clear distinction in our minds between people and other living creatures. We only identify with animals and fish and the like on the very lowest level that we’re all alive. The other spheres with which we identify ourselves have less measurable distinctions in our worldview. Our cognitive mind can identify the distinctions but intuitively, the further in you go, the muddier things get until you get to family, which is a dotted line because family identity is fairly distinct from identifying with the other levels of society. And then of course, there’s our identity as individuals at the core, but that’s not the focus of this fractalling system. There were many potential groups that I decided were best lumped under the collective name of “Peers” which basically is any smaller non-familial identity group that doesn’t really fit in any of the layers. Also, there are some identity groups that I couldn’t quite figure out where to put. For instance, would gender go between Humanity and Race or between Race and Society/Culture? Do people identify themselves as humans, and then as men/women or as men or women of their culture? Religion was another tricky one because there are a lot of religions that transcend individual cultures, but religions are also integral part of cultures…. In the end, the real helpful part of this diagram is that it helps you think of social identity as shrinking spheres of influence. If only that was all there was to it.

Unfortunately, though the spheres with which we identify are concentric, their influence in our overall identity is a lot more fluid and harder to trace. So while the concentric circles model is helpful for identifying the different layers of social identity, it’s also helpful to think of these different layers as all thrown together and overlapping and mixing with each other like so:
Image

So we see how complex social identity can be. Enough so that it almost warrants it’s own fractalling system in and of itself. But all we’re wanting to do is fractal cultural identity, so how do we home in on cultural identity without getting bogged down by all the other aspects? Quite honestly, I’m not 100% sure at the moment. The thing is that racial identity and cultural identity are pretty close. And city/communal identity also impacts cultural identity. This is especially true of primitive cultures. So what we’re gonna do is try our best to pull out the main ones and then you can adapt as needed until I get my act together and get the social identity fractalling system written.
  • Socio-Cultural Identity
    Here we’re gonna do our best to look at who the members of your culture say they are.
    • What role does race play in the group identity of your culture? In the ancient world it tended to play a pretty big role, and still does in some ancient societies. I remember reading the story of a missionary to Africa who became as culturally like the people as he possibly could but was still called a term used for outsiders because he didn’t have a black mother. However, the Ancient Egyptians cared less about your race than they did about you living according to their cultural norms. But simply put, if you asked a member of your culture who they (the [culture) are, would part of the answer be “we are race X”?
    • Who are the men of your culture? Now obviously I’m not talking about the race of Man, nor am I talking about the males. Who does your culture view as being a “man’s man”? We’ll look more at this in the Beliefs and Values stages, but it’s a good thing to look at early on here. Who do the men of your culture say they are?
    • Similarly, who are the women of your culture? Who do the women of your culture say they are?
    • Who are the esteemed/admired/trusted members of your culture? This is more a question of Values than of Worldview, but it factors into the group identity of your culture so give it some broad thoughts here.
    • Similarly, who are the untouchable/scorned/not-trusted members of your culture?
    • How does the shared history of the members of your culture shape their identity? Think back to the previous step where we looked at the events in your culture’s history that helped shape its members' worldview. Now we’re going to look at which of those events the members of the culture identify with. Do they see themselves as the people who survived X? Are they the people who overcame X civilization/tribe? Are they the people who have been conquered by entity X? What events in your cultures past shape the group identity of its members?
  • Communal Identity
    Here we’re going to zoom in beyond the broader concept of cultural into the individual communities within your culture. If you’re fractalling a city-state culture or just the culture of a city, you’d want to look at the city-wide identity and then break it down into the community identity. Or just stick with the broader city-identity depending on what suits the needs of your story. But here you’re just going to pick each community in your culture (which is really easy if it’s a small community-based culture), and look at who the members of the community say they are as a community.
    • How cohesive is the group identity of the community? In earlier times when travel was more difficult and dangerous, communities were smaller and tight-knit. You still find rural communities like that today in our world. But even in big cities you can find a strong communal identity, particularly in rougher neighborhoods where people share the identity as “those who survive(d) community X” Think of people from the Bronx in NYC. On the other hand, communal identities can also be fairly loose, I interact with you only when necessary/convenient and you do likewise. Such loose identities may be forged into a stronger bond by a time of crisis, or be shattered by it. So how closely-knit together are the members of the community in question?
    • What is the dominant level of social status in the community? What level of society do the members of the community identify with as a group?
    • What is the overall economic status of the community? What economic class do the members of community identify with as a group?
    • Do the members of the community identify with a specific race or cultural heritage (other than the dominant culture)? Think Chinatown for this one. I imagine that in Medieval-ish societies, there would be an even stronger tendency for members of the same race to seek haven together when living in a different culture.
    • Similarly to the last question in the previous section, what events do the members of the community identify with as a group? Think about things like community fires, or killings, or happy things like stories in the news of communities coming together to help a kid with cancer or things like that.
    • How do other members of the culture outside of this particular community view the members of the community?
  • Negative Identity
    Negative identity has to do with identifying who you are by identifying who you are not. For this step it could probably have been better termed, “Comparative Identity” since what we’re actually going to look at who the members of your culture say that outsiders are. This can really be done on multiple levels, other races, other cultures, other cities within the same basic culture, etc. But we’re going to keep it simple. For this step it would be helpful to pull from step 1.
    • What identities does your culture attribute to the other cultures in your world? For example, and not to play on stereotypes, but some of the associations that come to most Americans’ minds when we think of citizens of China outside of physical associations are manufacturing, communism, ancient empires, etc. So what are the major associations that your culture makes for the other cultures around it?
    • What do the members see as their culture’s role in the world? Are they like the Romans, bringers of the peace through conquest? Or maybe they see themselves as most western cultures viewed themselves during the 1800’s and early 1900’s, the enlightened, “civilized” people bringing humanity to the “uncivilized, childish, savages”. Not all cultures view themselves as higher, think about it, the conquering Romans were quick to adopt the philosophy, art, and thoughts of the educated Greeks.How do the members of your culture view themselves in relation to the world?
    • What neighboring cultures/races are admired by the members of your culture and why?
    • What neighboring cultures are considered inferior by the members of your culture? Why? Is this perceived inferiority scorned or pitied?
    • What does your culture view as the strengths/advantages of the other cultures around them?
    • What does your culture see as the major short-comings or weaknesses of the other cultures around them?
    Now remember that you can take all of the questions above and replace “culture” with “race”, “city”, “community”, “trade”, “clan”, or as many other social groupings as needed to fit the specific situation of your world.
  • Assimilation
    This looks at when someone officially is viewed as a member of your culture/race/community, or in other words, what takes place to make members of your culture view someone as “one of us”. Like the concept of negative identity, these concepts can be applied to various levels of your culture/society, so I’ll lay out the basic pattern and allow you to adapt the process as needed.
    • What are the major criteria for being identified as a member of the culture? Residence (particularly for city/communities), Race, and Behavior are common ones. Live with us, be born one of us, or act like one of us. Usually it’s a combination of the three with the emphasis lying on different factors depending on the culture in question. Which factors do the members of your culture emphasize?
      • How long does one have to live among the culture/community before being acknowledged as a member? Anyone who’s ever moved to a small town can probably identify with this concept.
      • How thoroughly does one have to adopt the culture to be identified as a member?
      • Are there biological or hereditary factors that block full identification? For instance, I read a missionary’s account of his attempts to adopt the culture of the African people he was working among, and was still called a term for rich outsiders because he didn’t have a white mother.
    • Does your culture have a formal process by which outsiders become members? How deeply rooted in the worldview is the process? By that I mean, once someone goes through the process are they instantly viewed as a member of the culture or is it viewed more as a technicality that doesn’t really make someone “one of us”?
    • Is there a certain milestone or rite-of-passage at which children of the culture are recognized as members of the culture? Or is being born into the culture an automatic initiation? A hint, usually it’s a little bit of both.
    • Under what circumstances if any would members of your culture actually want to bring an outsider in and make them a part of their community?

Step 3: Reality
These next two steps are very philosophical in nature and not really essential to understanding your culture. Working through them can help you gain an even more thorough understanding of your culture, but it’s a degree of thoroughness that’s not really necessary. So skim these steps, use what helps, and ignore what doesn’t.
  • How does your culture view the substance of reality? *sees the blank expressions* Ok, let’s unpack that a little. Best way to start is with examples. To the Greek philosophers in the 1st century, the spiritual realm of the soul was reality and the physical world was the tainted illusion that our souls escape in death to rejoin the spiritual realm. In the worldview of Eastern mysticism, the physical world is also viewed as an illusion. The Western worldview, however sees the physical world as reality with little or no emphasis on spiritual realities. Western Christianity for the most part (i.e. - average Christian that you meet on the street) acknowledges both the physical and spiritual realities, but tends to see them as separate. Tribal animistic religions around the world accept the reality of both the physical and the spiritual and believes that the spiritual reality has a very real impact on and involvement with the physical reality. Ecclesiastes3:11 says that God set eternity in men’s hearts, and though we could sit around for years discussing the details of what exactly that means, it’s evident that all people have an instinctive understanding that the physical world is not the breadth of reality, even if in our fallen state we try to stifle that instinct. It would be logical to assume that the same is true of the peoples in your world. So how does the culture-in-question translate that instinct?
    • Does your culture acknowledge the spiritual reality?Most major worldviews until the Advent of Modern Science acknowledged the Spiritual reality. Atheism and Naturalism are fairly young worldviews as far as the world is concerned.
    • Does your culture see the physical world as real?
    • If your culture acknowledges both as “real,” then how does it view the nature of the two realities? Antagonistic (similar to Greek view, in which the physical tainted and trapped the pure spirits of people and they could only escape upon death)? Symbiotic? Separate (Western view)? Inter-dependent?
    • If your culture acknowledges both realities, does it view one as stronger or having more influence than the other? I.e. does the spiritual influence the physical without being influenced itself or vice versa? Or does your culture view them as equally influencing each other?
    • Does your culture view one reality as “fairer” or “better” than the other? Technically, this could fall under “Values,” but as it applies to reality, I decided to put it here.
  • What means does your culture deem valid for discerning reality/truth? I think this one is fairly self-explanatory in comparison to the last one. Basically, how does your culture answer the philosophical question: “How do we know what’s real?”
    • To what degree are the physical senses considered valid for perceiving reality? If your culture views the physical world as illusory/not-real, then very little faith would be placed in the physical senses. Whereas if your culture views the physical reality as the dominant/sole reality, then great faith would be placed in the physical senses.
    • Does your culture hold that the spiritual reality can be perceived by the physical senses? To what degree? On what occasions? This one is really better handled in detail under the “Belief” section, so I’m only touching on it lightly here.
    • Are emotions viewed as valid means of perceiving/interpreting reality? To what degree?
    • Are reason and logic viewed as valid means of evaluating and appraising reality?
    • Are instinct and intuition considered valid means of perceiving reality? To what degree?
    • Does your culture accept the existence of some other non-physical sense through which reality can be perceived? How does this “sixth sense” differ from instinct and intuition?
  • How does your culture view the nature of time?
    • Does your culture view time as linear (Western & Christian view) or as cyclical (Hinduism,Buddhism, and Eastern mysticism)?
    • Does your culture view reality as progressing, decaying, cycling, or remaining the same?

Step 4: “Humanity”
This step analyzes your culture’s view of the nature of humanity. Now I can hear some of yall saying, “But wait a minute, Seer, not all my races are humans, why don’t you say ‘sentience’?” Glad you asked! ;) The reason is that “sentience” is a sci-fi word used to communicate the same basic idea as “humanity” without requiring the subject to be human per se and there really is no better word than humanity. But basically this looks at how your culture answers the question: “What makes a person a person?” That being said, I will for simplicity’s sake use words like “human,” “man,” and “woman,” with the understanding that I’m not referring specifically to humans, but rather to people :)
  • What physical features does your culture equate with being a person? For ages humans made a pretty strong connection between the face and humanity (lots of monsters had human faces). Also, standing on two legs and possessing two hands are commonly seen in attempts to anthropomorphize. If your world is full of all humanoid races (elves, dwarves, men, etc.), then you could honestly just skip this step and probably be ok. But if your world has races that are not humanoid or have noticeable differences (like fish-tails or wings for arms), then you might want to drop inside the mind of cultures made up solely of such races and see if they have any physical features that they view as symbolic of being a person.
  • What emotional attributes does your culture equate with being a person? English vocabulary actually helps explain this one. The words “inhumane” and ”inhumanity” denotes a severe degree of cruelty that it’s deemed uncharacteristic of human-kind. While words like “humane” and “humanitarian” devote a kind of compassion and concern for others. Emotions and virtues will be explored more thoroughly once we get to the Values phase, so for this step we’re just going to stay pretty basic.
    • Are there any emotions or virtues that your culture views as inherent in all people?
    • Are there any emotional experiences your culture views as common to all people? Examples: falling in love, heartbreak, grief,failure… you get the picture.
    We could probably go deeper, but I think this is enough for now.
  • Are there any roles your race views as common to all people? Roles like, father, mother, brother/sister, friend, enemy?
  • What mental capacities or processes does your culture equate with being a person? The main ones for us humans are self-awareness (the definition of “sentience” is actually “awareness”), the ability to reason, and creativity. Those are qualities you see in basically all sentient beings in fiction. Are there any of those that your culture does not equate with being a person? Or are there additional mental qualities that they equate with being a person?
  • Are there any special abilities unique to a certain race that your culture associates with being a person? Basically, is there any ability so basic and fundamental to the daily life of your race that it flows into their cultural view of “humanity”?
  • What makes a “man” a person or a person a “man” in your culture’s reckoning?This is one that I really want to explore to pieces when we get to the Beliefs and Values phases, but I’m introducing it here to get the wheels turning in your mind. Basically we’re looking for the deepest level assumptions your culture has about “manhood”/masculinity. Broad brush-strokes here, we’ll fill in the details.
  • Similarly, what makes a “woman” a person and vice versa in your culture’s reckoning? Again, broad brush-strokes here.

There you have it ladies, and gentlemen. The first complete phase of the DCulFS! The next phase is your culture’s Beliefs! :dieshappy: A long, monstrous thing, I know. Try being the one coming up with it :P As always, use what works for your cultures, and ignore what doesn't. :) Enjoy!

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 Post subject: Re: Worldview (DCulFS)
PostPosted: Mon Sep 24, 2012 9:33 pm 
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It's interesting that the most obviously "fractal" having to do with self-similarity at different levels of scale part of this is dealt with in a sentence-aside, at that. :)

Fairfeet the Seer wrote:
Now remember that you can take all of the questions above and replace “culture” with “race”, “city”, “community”, “trade”, “clan”, or as many other social groupings as needed to fit the specific situation of your world.


(I'm just plotting out my course for a first pass through these, and have realized, again, how monocultural my conception of my tens-or-hundreds-of-thousands-miles-wide main country is, even when I'm just thinking of the humans and not the elves or dwarves or whatnot. Sigh.)

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Age: 29 Dec 1989
kingjon wrote:
It's interesting that the most obviously "fractal" having to do with self-similarity at different levels of scale part of this is dealt with in a sentence-aside, at that. :)

Fairfeet the Seer wrote:
Now remember that you can take all of the questions above and replace “culture” with “race”, “city”, “community”, “trade”, “clan”, or as many other social groupings as needed to fit the specific situation of your world.

IRONY!!!! I LOVE IRONY!!!! :dieshappy:

*ahem* Anyways...interesting observation *nodnod*

_________________
~Seer~

"I think armpit hair's pretty intimate!" - Roager

"I am so glad I'm getting locked in the basement today." - Airianna Valenshia

"You are the laughter I forgot how to make." - Calista Beth

"Sorry, I was busy asphyxiating Mama R." - Seer

"I'm a man of many personalities, but tell you what? They're all very fond of you." - Sheogorath from Elder Scrolls Online


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