Smith (2010) argues that a good society is one where it “facilitate[s] and foster[s] through its institutions and structures the development and flourishing of human persons as they are by nature.” The Observatory’s greatest ambition is to contribute towards realising this. This entails addressing the issues of technocracy mentioned above, but also of understanding the real causes of social change, and the role of technologies in those causes. Smith (2010) identifies a number of factors:
- Social change occurs when new relationships between different groups are initiated and when old relationships are weakened or terminated.
- Social change occurs when the categories of understanding of prevailing social structures change. For example, social structures change when people no longer think in terms of “lords, peasants and knights and imagine life instead in terms of burghers, citizens, traders and entrepreneurs”
- Social structures change when sustaining material resources are significantly reduced (and sometimes when then are increased). Political structures, in particular, become vulnerable with a reduction in material resources.
- Social structures change when material objects that instantiate and express social structures (like, for example, church buildings, pubs or post-offices) fall into disrepair or become irrelevant.
- Social structures change in response to changes in moral and normative beliefs in the practices, procedures, rules and laws those belies underwrite.
- Social structures change when enough of their participants simply – for whatever reason – stop sanctioning noncompliance, deviance and rebellion.
- Social structures change when new or newly mobilized systems of communication decrease the intractability of coordinated interactions.
Social structures change as a result of disruptions of normal reiterated body practices and collective activity patterns. Mere behavioural changes of this sort, literally the doing by some people of unexpected things with their bodies can exert significant causal forces of social structural change.
The Boundaries Observatory relates to each of these factors. Through its own processes, new connections will be established where received ideas and practices are challenged. The Boundaries Observatory achieves this through the shared critique of ideas: new relationships are formed because new patterns of communication are established and new categories of thinking introduced.