Long overdue, much requested, and finally published!
Below is our annotated bibliography for Innovating Emergent Futures The Innovation Design Approach for Change and Worldmaking.
The first thing to say is that this is an ongoing project. We are going to be adding to this annotated bibliography over the next year. This first set of books focuses on philosophy and creativity. As we go we will add others from a wide diversity of fields. Our goal is to provide a broad, organized, annotated and encompassing set of books covering all aspects of innovation and creativity. So please check back regularly.
The second thing to say is that while books are important to us and our work — but for us they only make sense as part of experimental practices of doing. Most of these books we came to because of how they resonated with what we were testing and experimenting with — books are neither sources of “knowledge” to be simply applied nor do they hold an answer that confirms the truth of what you are doing. Many of our favorite books are dog-eared, coffee and wine stained, rain soaked and rebound a few times. We will often write things out on sheets of paper and pin them up to remind ourselves:
We encourage you to test things out — experiment in the relay between doing and thinking. We often use two very distinct and contrasting approaches to the written word; one is to be focused — stick with a few concepts, ignore authors, and even the full book — collect and follow a concept perhaps across several books, articles, movies, objects and environments — test it and evolve it in your own way. A second is to read everything by one author or a group of related authors. Test out their major concepts, tract their variations and the diversity of the ecosystem they produce — what can you do experimentally with this whole field?
Agamben is one of the few philosophers who directly addressed this concept, and for this reason, it is an interesting book. He does a good job of suggesting how broad the ecosystem of things, and practices is that make up an apparatus – making implicit connections to Media theorists (McLuhan et al). Frankly, it would be better to simply turn to such authors (e.g. Keller Easterling).
The Dao De Jing is an important work of process philosophy and this careful translation with insightful commentary, glossary and introduction make this accessible to a non scholar. It also serves as an insightful introduction/corrective to many other translations and commentaries that take the assumptions of a western cosmology for granted. In relation to the question of creativity, the Daoist traditions assume an ever dynamic, open and creative reality. For further reading see “The Propensity of Things” and Mercedes Valmisa’s “Adapting: A Chinese Philosophy of Action”.
Even Greater Mistakes is just out and is a collection of Anders short stories
In "After Phrenology: Neural Reuse and the Interactive Brain” Michael Anderson the neuroscience researcher powerful critique the idea of fixed brain regions for specific forms of cognitive activity, as well as that the brain is modular, and can be understood in a disembodied manner. It is a powerful scientific critique of so much of what passes as creativity brain research today.
Hans Belting. This is a big book – a monumental book – but a really wonderful and perspective changing adventure into how radically different objects and images functioned from how we engage with them today. Through this carefully laid out history of the image in western asia he makes a convincing argument for how art emerged in the 1500-1800’s. It is as Arthor Danto says “It is a work that anyone interested in art, or in the history of thought about art, should regard as urgent reading”.
Henri Bergson’s, the great process philosopher and Nobel Prize winner's masterpiece on creativity as a fundamental quality of all reality and especially all life: “The more deeply we study the nature of time, the better we understand that duration means invention, creation of forms, continuous elaboration of the absolutely new”.
Marisol de la Cadena and Mario Blaser (eds). One of the rarely challenged assumptions across all aspects of creativity and innovation is its default universalism. The creative subject is an ahistorical gender neutral universal subject. This is an untenable approach. This series of essays offers a critique of western universalism and draws out a series of alternative worldmaking propositions.
This is one of Cage’s late works – his number pieces, which he described with the term “emptyfullness” – worth adding to the playlist.
Anthony Chemero is one of the most interesting and useful (to us) of the researchers in the field of embodied cognitive science. He effectively spans many traditions and approaches. And forcefully argues for an understanding of all cognition as the outcome of brain-body-environment. This work develops the concept of affordance in particularly useful ways for a more distributed approach to creative processes.
Colombetti makes a critical contribution to the Enactive Cognition approach by focusing on affect as a critical aspect of sense-making. Here is a great lecture she gives, introducing the concepts from the book. This work allows us to connect the embodied practices, specific environments, and tools (an apparatus) that give rise to specific modes of sense-making at a felt level.
This is a really exceptional book – smart, insightful, and very well-written. It takes a generally Foucaultian approach to a history of rules – from thick to thin. Daston does a great job of parsing out the ontologically distinct logics differing historical eras.
Viveiros de Castro, a Brazilian anthropologist is a founding figure in what is labeled the “ontological turn” in anthropology (along with Marlyn Strathern, Roy Wagner, and Philippe Descola). DeCastro offers a creative vision of a world where many worlds are real and possible. Additionally this work questions the very idea that creativity is a universal concept. Essential reading.
Manuel Delanda is one of the many creative interpreters of the work of Gilles Deleuze and this text offers a powerful synthetic view of reality as a complex assemblage of forces, systems, organizations, bodies, tools and environments. Via a series of examples ranging from science to economics he offers a pragmatic way to understand the work of innovation as the making and maintaining of dynamic assemblages.
Henri Bergson along with C. S. Pierce, William James and A. N. Whitehead key figures in the development of a western philosophy of creativity and change. Gilles Deleuze, in this short monograph, explicates Bergson’s contribution to this with a focus on his concept of difference and multiplicity. For us, it is the first chapter, with its focus on problems and how they must be invented, that is critical.
Gilles Deleuze’s doctoral dissertation. It is the first book where, as Deleuze himself puts it, he “tried to ‘do philosophy’”. It is about radical difference — which is to say radical creativity — where difference and creativity are not subordinated to any norm or pre-existing logic. Chapter three: The Image of Thought is one of the most powerful and clear criticisms of Ideas, Ideation and representation and the Western image of thought. While chapters one and two offer an alternative model of creativity that has been very influential, and critical to our work since first experimenting with it in the early 1990’s.
This wonderful short essay Gilles Deleuze moves across registers poetic to operational to articulate the full breadth this concept played in Foucault’s work – how it works at a creative level to produce the “seeable and the sayable” and new forms of subjectivity. It is a dense work, but worth the effort to parse.
More than any other contemporary philosopher Gilles Deleuze has focused on the question of creativity and invention. A Thousand Plateaus, co-authored with Felix Guattari is perhaps the most powerful and clear statement of this endeavor. They introduce a critical set of tools and processes (rhizomes, assemblages, the refrain, nomadic science…) that are critical to developing a novel and effective approach to innovation as a social and ecological process. The Chapter “On the Refrain” is one of the most beautiful and moving pieces of writing on the creative process we have read. All of their collective and independent work has been of great relevance to reinventing creativity.
Offers a robust and understandable introduction to self-organization in general as well as an important overview of what self-organizing is not. The focus is on bacteria, fungi, insects and fish.
Dogen is an important historical philosopher. In this work, he focuses on practices of the body – questions of comportment. How to sit. While this can seem miles away from the work of Foucault or even Enactive Cognition – there is a critical dialog to be had. Again, it is a relational ecological question of an apparatus or how a specific 4EA logic is historically enacted. Dogen’s work develops an important way of conceptualizing emptiness/nothingness as the source of creativity – as a form of plenitude.
An excellent short work that extends the logic of the Dispositif/Apparatus into a relational and ecological approach to design and change-making.
Umberto Eco. A short and precise guide to how aesthetics and making evolved through the middle ages – an era when art meant any skilled practice. Eco does an exceptional job of connecting the theological arguments of Augustine and Aquinas to practices of making prior to the emergence of the modern concept of art.
Michel Foucault. Deleuze, Nelson, Reckwitz, and Nealon are all drawing upon the work of Michel Foucault. This anthology collects key essays, interviews and excerpts from major works. It is an accessible and manageable introduction to a pivotal figure in the critical reimagining of what it means to be a subject.
Michel Foucault: Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and other writings 1972-1977 This book of interviews contains one of the earliest descriptions of a Dispositif (apparatus) in the interview “The Confessions of the Flesh”. It is often quoted in very brief excerpts (including by us) which does not do it justice.
Foucault wrote an enormous amount – with many new additions of texts still being published forty years after his death. His books are dense complex and take on very specific historical questions. But, in interviews, Foucault was the opposite – expansive, clear, and offering an immediate sense of what he was after in his more complex projects. Deleuze says this of Foucault’s use of interviews: “Foucault attached so much importance to his interviews in France and even more so abroad, not because he liked interviews, but because in them he traced lines of actualization that required another mode of expression than the assimilable lines in his major books. The interviews are diagnoses.” This book of interviews is perhaps the best introduction to Foucault as it collects interviews from across the entirety of his intellectual career. The interview “The Masked Philosopher” is a good place to start.
The first thinker to develop the concept of exaptation is, as Steven Jay Gould acknowledges, is Nietzsche in the Genealogy of Morals. Michel Foucault adopts the process of exaptation (genealogy in Nietzsche’s sense) as a method. This makes him a critical philosopher-historian for creativity. It is not that useful to isolate any particular work of Foucault’s in regards to our work — they have all played an important role. But this book, as a statement of method, is quite interesting, and makes a good introduction as does the discussion of power/creativity in The History of Sexuality (Volume one). One key concept for us is the “dispositif” — how an assemblage of practices, habits, concepts, tools and environments allows for the emergence of a specific way of being alive. It is an important part of understanding Deleuze’s concept of an assemblage for creativity.
James Gibson’s final work and the one that lays out a radical alternative approach to how sentient beings sense, perceive and engage with the world. How an embodied being with skills and capacities meets an environment and in their active relating affordances (opportunities for action) emerge. Affordances are a critical concept for the development of an alternative approach to creativity as a process.
Perceiving the Affordances, Eleanor Gibson writes a moving and insightful intellectual biography of their shared lives and research. It is composed in a way that folds in long quotes from James Gibson with Eleanor portraying their shared and distinct intellectual journeys. It is quite helpful in getting an intellectual history of the development of the concept via their work/lives.
This work is an extended profound extension of the work of the Gibsons on affordances. Sadly it is out of print and hard to find – but if you can find a copy at a reasonable price – it is more than worth it!
This is a wonderful anti-reductionist (gene centric) view of how self-organization evolves — how complexity evolves in living systems. It is a really helpful in supplying new frameworks and approaches to the agency of systems and matter. The chapter on the evolution of generic forms is especially relevant to thinking about the dynamics of creative processes without an author. Here Goodwin provides an alternative material process answer to why forms like the Fibonacci sequence are found in nature without resorting to some essentialist answer.
Steven Jay Gould’s massive magnum opus is an unedited and sprawling work that touches on many many key questions in regards to innovation. Perhaps most important is the section that comes late in the book on exaptation. It is one of the most comprehensive developments of the process by one of the originators of the term. A critical introduction to one of the most important and poorly understood concepts for creativity and innovation.
This is the full argument situating how a modern individualistic and self-expressive paradigm of art emerged in the 20th century. Consider the larger context of the cold war and the related discourses conflating individualism, creativity and freedom, etc.
Ecological Psychology in Context. Harry Heft writes perhaps the best single volume introduction to the topic. He starts with William James and moves through the various precursors, and covers in detail the evolution of the concept of affordance (see “affordances in Places and Affordances of Places”). He ends with a powerful critical reflection on the scope of ecological psychology.
Martin Heidegger in this work offers a unique understanding of the engaged, situated, tacit, and ontological nature of sense-making. This, in conjunction with his investigation of tools, creativity and worldmaking, make this work essential reading.
Bremen and Freiburg Lectures: Insight into that which is – this is the original way Heidegger intended one to read his lectures on Things and Technology. It is also an outstanding translation.
In “Making” the Scottish anthropologist offers a pragmatic approach to understanding all forms of making and creating as being a practice that emerges from the middle of doing things with things in a specific environment. A clear statement of what making actually is and feels like if we put aside the deeply flawed “everything happens in the head of the creator” model.
Stuart Kauffman’s work is a critical part of the effort to understand how order emerges at the edge of chaos in a spontaneous and self-organizing fashion. His research into how organization propagates is important to reimagining how organizations of all kinds and all scales emerge, maintain themselves and innovate — all without any form of individualized command and control structure.
An important contemporary twentieth-century Japanese philosopher. In this late work, he develops an important phenomenological theory of aesthetics and nothingness.
If you are Phenomenology curious and want to read one reasonably short book that does an exceptional job of covering the history in a way that illuminates the concept of affordances, we would recommend Phenomenology: An Introduction by Stephan Kaufer and Anthony Chemero. It is wonderfully clear, concise and always insightful.
Understanding Innovation through Exaptation. This book reflects the limited understanding of exaptation in the innovation and management community, but it does have one interesting chapter: “The Role of Affordance Landscapes in Exaptive Evolution”
Critical to developing a better understanding and a better general approach to creativity is the need for a critical examination of our history. The work of Bruno Latour in general and especially We Have Never Been Modern is a key work in this endeavor (see also Laboratory Life). Latour, researches how scientific innovations actually came about (vs what scientists and others said about the process). For Latour “to be modern” is to believe that we have left pre-modern superstitions behind and entered into an agreement that we can have a view from nowhere unattached to the agency of things, habits, practices and other networks. But this is never possible (hence his title). For creativity this is a critical read on how invention actually happens — how networks and assemblages — the more-than-human is necessary.
This book is an exemplary work in a larger movement towards recognizing how we are fundamentally shaped by our physical environment and the things we use. Malafouris, who is an archeologist by training proposes a theory of Material Engagement to challenge the prejudices of brain centric models of ideation, representation and the general dematerialization of human thinking and acting. Malafouris argues that “ our ways of thinking are not merely causally dependent upon but constituted by extracranial bodily processes and material artifacts”. Thinking, especially creative thinking emerges not from the brain alone but from how we do things with things. Things, environments and actions play a necessary, irreducible and fundamental creative role in all of our thinking. Given this we really need to shift how, and where we approach the creative process. Essential reading.
Erin Manning (who runs “the sense lab” in Montreal) and Brian Massumi together run The Three Ecologies Institute in Quebec — a critical space (both physical and virtual) for experimenting with new models of creativity. This book that they co-authored articulates an experimental approach to “thought in the act” — thought that is not reduced to ideas in the head, but a creative doing-thinking. Chapter five: For Thought in the Act offers one of the most productive approaches to creativity as an experimental process. Manning and Massumi — together and separately have written a considerable number of books, as well as done many other creative projects. For context: their work draws up that of Deleuze and Whitehead (amongst others). All of their work has been critical to our own experiments.
Marshall McLuhan was a media superstar in his lifetime and perhaps because of it, is now less well recognized for his pioneering work on technology and innovation. Drawing upon the work of A. N. Whitehead McLuhan offers a powerful way of understanding the effects of technology (such as speaking or writing) as all encompassing. This gives one the tools to begin to understand innovation not as the making of a discreet thing, but a world. McLuhan was fond of quoting Whitehead in saying that the great discovery of the nineteenth century was “the discovery of discovery”. The Medium is the Massage is a wonderful short and pithy introduction to McLuhan's work. Understanding Media is another key work.
Dense Magazine is worth subscribing to — it's a brilliant magazine connecting all the pieces on big picture design and innovation. Take a look — makes for great summer reading: many short articles and a mix of fiction and non-fiction. Follow on instagram: @densemagazine.
One particularly good book was The Mountain in the Sea by Ray Nayer. It is a book about the nature of consciousness in the 21st century. A story of alien meetings between humans and other species on a planet radically impacted by the ravages of capitalism. The aliens in question are not some exotic extraterrestrial but octopuses and AI systems. And the setting is not a far-off planet but the South Pacific Ocean. The book does an astonishing job of digging into the relation between embodiment and environment – what differences skeletons and land-based niches make in contrast to the skeletonless bodies with distributed brains in oceans make for the form of being alive.
Nealon develops in a very accessible manner Foucault critical genealogy of the emergence of modern logics of the individual. He argues that the contemporary ideal of individualism is not a form of resistance or independence from power but is rather an expression of contemporary forms of power and that creative resistance will need to develop new forms of subjects.
The Oxford Handbook of 4E Cognition (Newen, De Brun, Gallagher, eds.). This book contains key essays on affordances, social cognition, and the role of tools. A really wonderful book with many insights from varied perspectives.
Nietzsche’s: The Genealogy of Morals which independently develops the concept and has an enormous influence on Foucault’s development of related concepts. Gould even cites Nietzsche and this work.
Susan Oyama and her proposal to rethink evolutionary theory as Developmental System Theory both provides a necessary corrective to gene centric essentialist models of evolution, but more importantly (for us) provide a model to rethink an essentialist and individualistic creativity, classical systems thinking, and many highly abstract models of complexity science in relation to innovation. Her work has had a major impact on thinkers as varied as Evan Thompson and Gary Tomilson.
There are many, many books on Foucault. This book makes every effort to be clear, put his work into context, define key techniques and concepts, and walk the reader through his major works. Additionally, it offers an exceptional set of tools to trace back concepts to all of their sources in his work. O’Farrell also runs the invaluable website on all things Foucault: Foucault News
A critical tradition and approach is Phenomenology and the work of Merleau-Ponty (1908-1961) : Phenomenology of Perception (1945). Given that we take perception as a give – something we just do, we miss the logic and the dynamic creative embodied process of perceiving and sensing what-so-ever.
A seminal work by the Nobel Prize winning chemist Ilya Prigogine and the philosopher/historian of science Isabelle Stengers. An important work on the creative nature of time, and self-organizing systems. It connects the work of Bergson, Whitehead and Deleuze to Complexity Science. Stengers has continued to develop many of these concepts in rich and original ways (and has had an important influence on Bruno Latour, Donna Haraway and others).
While many discussions of embodied cognition, complexity theory and innovation are abstract, generic and apolitical — Political Affect is anything but — it is an important corrective to flaccid discussions of complexity science that have little actual bearing on what it means to be alive today. Protevi analyzes school shootings and the aftermath of hurricanes in a profound way that connects enactive subjectivities to self-organizing systems and emergence to offer a powerful corrective to the model of the liberal subject and apolitical models of creativity and innovation.
Life War Earth: Deleuze and the Sciences, is in some ways a more modest work that follows from Political Affect. It builds upon this previous work as well as Political Physics and Deleuze and Geophilosophy, and acts as a final summation of Protevi’s longstanding project to connect Deleuze and Complexity Science. There are many critical essays in this book that cover vast scales of agency – from the geological to the genetic. In regards to Affordances these insights are to be found in the second part: Cognitive Science: Brain and Body – especially the final essay in this section: Adding Deleuze to the Mix. Despite the unrevealing title this essay joins the concept of Affordance to a radial approach to creativity and change – where the new is real without being actual. Worth a close read.
Creativity has a history. It is not a concept that existed before the 1830’s. How it came into being and how it developed especially during the Cold War period has problematically shaped so much of what is simply thought of as “creativity”. But the individualistic and internalistic model of creativity is a Cold War artifact. To develop alternative approaches to creativity we need to understand this history. Reckwitz, using a Foucaultian genealogical methodology, offers a powerful critique of this supposedly natural human phenomenon.
In the eighties I would visit her books store (Proprioception Books) on a third floor walk up (it might have been more) in downtown Vancouver and it changed my life. Robertsons work, mainly as a poet and essayist, is a baroque explosion of language, and now we have their first novel.
Marshall Sahlins (1930-2021) at the end of his life published a book that upends the western approach to cosmology, religious studies, and political science: The New Science of the Enchanted Universe. His thesis, in a nutshell is “the ‘state of nature’ has the nature of a state”. A brilliant and critical work in regards to connecting affordances to worldmaking and an ontological approach to creativity.
A profound, sharp and polemic critique of the Western concept of “human nature”. Essential reading.
Gilbert Simondon was a critical influence on a whole generation of French philosophers of creativity and technology (esp. Deleuze). In this work he explores how things come into being (creativity) — or as he calls it “individuates” — treating everything as a type of event of individuation. A critical work in rethinking the agency of matter and of creativity as a process that humans do not initiate but attune themselves to.
A radical alternative history and philosophy of innovation. With exceptional case studies. This is another difficult book to approach. The secondary literature in english has been slowly developing. We suggest as a great companion book: Gilbert Simondon: Being and Technology. Which has amongst other things a superb glossary.
This book played a transformational role in how the work of A. N. Whitehead was approached. In regards to the question of the aesthetics of creativity, the chapter “Feeling One’s World” is quite helpful. Here is an interesting talk she gives on Whitehead, along with a response from Donna Haraway.
Evan Thompson is a critical figure in the development of the Enactive Approach to cognition (alongside Eleanor Rosch, Francisco Varela, Eduardo Manturana, and others.). This book, which he intended to write with Varela (who unfortunately died before the project could truly get underway), is perhaps the best one-book introduction to an Enactive Approach to Cognition — laying out a comprehensive argument for why and how thinking is embodied, embedded, extended, enactive and affective. It draws upon brain research, philosophical traditions, evolutionary theory, complexity science, and much else. It is also important for his arguments why other historical approaches to cognition fall short. Evan Thompson brings a strong knowledge and engagement with South and East Asian philosophical traditions and cultural practices to the questions of how we think and what is thinking. All of his work is highly recommended.
A more elaborated and technical version of A Million Years of Music.
What does a professor of Baroque Music have to say about early hominid evolution? It turns out, quite a bit. This book along with its companion book, Culture and the Course of Human Evolution offer one of the most useful models of the socio-material dynamics of invention. His development of the concept of an “Epicycle” is a concept of far greater use than that of a “paradigm” and the logic of “paradigm change”.
The Final Volume: The Machines of Evolution and the Scope of Meaning covers some of the same ground as the previous volumes but now from the perspective of the creative emergence of meaning in the universe. Tomlinson develops an approach to innovation and change in a profoundly abstract and systematic manner in the middle section of this book (The Abstract Machines of Evolution). In it he connects Darwin, Pierce’s theory of Signs, Deleuze’s Notion of Abstract Machines, Mediation, Affordances, Constraints, and Niche Construction to lay out a highly usable approach to innovation at multiple scales. And in doing so he offers one of the most compelling accounts of affordances. The important caveat is that this is not Tomlinson’s explicit goal. His focus is on the evolution of meaning and defining of its limited scope in the universe. Note: The final section on “Outstanding Questions” offers an important and original meditation on technology, evolution and culture – especially in regards to Heidegger (see below).