Welcome to Emerging Futures -- Volume 113! Creativity in 113 Sentences...
Good morning paradoxical becomings of non-knowable relational processes,
This week let's jump right into things.
Over the last five newsletters we have been exploring how many of the most critical aspects of creativity involve forms of the negative and negativity. And all of this negativity that is so critical to creative processes, are also paradoxically a form of pure positive difference. In short, we believe that coming to terms with the negative can give rise to a non-reactive way to engage with creative processes.
This week we challenged ourselves to synthesize and summarize this approach developed over the last five newsletters – and to clearly articulate one approach to developing a non-reactive creativity in 113 sentences:
1. Creativity is a process by which something new comes into being.
2. This could be anything new – by any process – thus creativity is far more than human.
3. Creativity is a process that is inherent in reality – and immanent to all reality at all times (it does not go away).
4. Reality is dynamic, and open – thus creativity and the emergence of the new do not stop.
5. Reality is dynamic and open but that does not mean it is chaotic or falls into entropy.
6. Reality is organized – it is self-organized. Differing forms of order and stability spontaneously emerge.
7. The new is spontaneously emerging without author all around (and inside) us.
8. We are an ongoing outcome and active participant in this ongoing process.
9. The new is simply anything that is different from what exists.
10. Even though reality is highly dynamic and open and everything is process through and through – most of these processes produce a repetition of what already exists.
11. But even in their repetition of what exists there are small novel differences. Nothing ever repeats exactly. Every repetition is a variation, and some variations are novel.
12. “Sameness” is variation with novelty within a tightly circumscribed range.
13. This variation of difference is termed “difference in degree” and is the most common form of novelty – aka “the new”.
14. This is the novelty of variation – it is a chair but a different chair.
15. The vast majority of our problems and solution based approaches to innovation are outcomes of this logic.
16. This form of novelty and difference involves knowing.
17. To make or even understand that something is a variation one needs to know what is being varied. E.g. we need to know what a chair “is” to understand that this new thing is a variation within the category of “chair”.
18. Here explicit forms of knowing, identity, representation, concepts, language all play a critical role.
19. Knowing “what” – this explicit form of knowing rests upon more than just related concepts.
20. Knowing and thinking are not reducible to brain activity.
21. Knowing – and all forms of thinking are intra-relational practices that emerge from how we are specifically embodied, extended, embedded, enactive and affective.
22. This means that an extended lived practice involving a “know-how” that cannot be fully explicated grounds and gives rise to all forms of “knowing what”.
23. Thus who we are and how we know inherently and inseparably involves an integrated processual ecosystem of practices, habits, states of embodiment, tools, collectives, organizations, and environments.
25. This dynamic integrated set of processes working across multiple scales gives rise to who we are and how we sense reality.
26. There is no fixed essence to who we are to be found deep within the self – rather we are the semi-stable outcome of a “style” – a situated way of being alive that is always historical, relational and entangled.
28. Ultimately this set of historical practices, and environments as a loosely integrated but open set of processes can be understood as a “world”.
29. Creativity is in this way always a worldmaking process.
30. Immanent to a world is an ontologically distinct way of sensing – feeling, perceiving, understanding, responding, engaging and knowing in implicit and explicit ways.
31. Such a world is how reality is – what reality affords.
32. Reality is never simply a matter of appearances – the argument that differing individuals and cultures simply “see” reality differently is false.
33. What we do with other things makes reality.
34. What we sense – what we experience is reality as it is afforded to us.
35. This critical concept of affordances – helps us understand that our lived reality is composed of emergent opportunities for potential action – and that these “affordances” emerge from the relation between a meaningful environment and our enactive abilities.
36. Everything is exactly what it is – Why? because we enact it.
37. It becomes literally what it is via what it affords and this is relational.
38. We take affordances as a given feature of an environment that is fully outside of ourselves because the relations are so stable.
39. But this leads to a paradox: it is also the case that because all things are relational – nothing is what it “is” (because what it is is relational (contextual)).
40. Thus things are exactly what they are – a chair is a chair and they are also exactly not what they are.
41. Change the relations enough and one changes reality.
42. At every moment everything is in radically competing relations – e.g. this chair is 100% a chair for us, and to a spider it is 100% something else.
43. Let’s go back to novel differences now – is the world of small novel variations all that there is?
44. Is our reality and novelty only composed of differences in degree – a relational network of variations?
45. The critical question for those engaged with creative processes is:
46. Is there only one universal reality/world possible?
47. Some forms of difference are not just variations of a given category (say chairs), or even variations of a world – and these we can understand to be “qualitatively '' different.
48. Another way to put this: Some forms of novelty are so different that they are as they say in the Tour-de-France of extreme mountain climbs – they are “Hors catégorie” – beyond or outside of categorization.
49. These qualitative differences give rise to the expression “you can’t compare apples to oranges.”
50. In confronting a qualitative difference the limits of one logic (apparatus) are met.
51. Once a qualitative threshold is crossed we are in a very different ontological world.
52. We can see these forms of difference emerge all around us – the evolution of life, multi celled creatures, and radically differing modes of being alive (octopi and birds for example).
53. The key question for creative practices is how can our creative practices participate in processes that give rise to the emergence of novel qualitative differences?
54. When something that is both novel and not a variation – such that it is not within a known category it inherently exceeds our existing conceptual tools of language and representation.
55. Thus such a novel qualitative difference is not something one could ever ideate directly because ideation requires the tools of conceptualization, representation and ultimately language – and these are all tools tied to variations of the known and knowable.
56. The new that is qualitatively different is therefore not knowable – but it is sensible.
57. It is something that we could know at an embodied implicit level – but not something we can know explicitly and conceptually in the moment of emergence.
58. What is then being “sensed” at an embodied level? – The autonomous self-organizing relational flows of reality that exceeds our current affordance structures.
59. The issue is that the sensible – what we sense is not just a neutral given.
60. How we sense (feel, perceive, engage, value and know-how) is co-formed/co-emergent with a historical apparatus (way & infrastructure of being alive).
61. Sensing is sense-making – it is an active – and ultimately enactive process.
62. Sense-making – the affordance process is something that we enact – it is our continuous historically situated activity of “making the path in walking”.
63. Sense-making and sensing is never neutral or generic.
64. This brings us back to the issue of “how do we sense the new?”
65. Thus while hypothetically we can sense the new – but all things being equal we always sense the radically new and novel in relation to the existing world we are continuously enacting.
Thus the new, if it even registers as sensed, it is sensed as something other than the new, it is sensed rather as a mistake, something stupid, horrifying, or just something else – or equally likely – it will not even register.
66. So then – another critical question for the development of a creative practice is: how can we sense the qualitatively novel as novel?
67. Based on the above argument we first have to answer a different question: how do we get to not-knowing?
68. Why? Because our explicit practices of knowing (ideating, conceptualizing, categorizing, representing) subsumes the novel before we even realize we are experiencing something novel.
69. How can we sense the new as new – the different as different?
70. We require a new style of engagement – a new extended comportment – a very particular form of scaffolding to do this.
71. How do we get there? The key tools of this style of practice are negative – they involve active forms of knowing and refusing the known (what we call blocking).
72. We need to actively and explicitly develop an ecosystemic practice of refusing the known.
73. Refusing the known (blocking) requires knowing – lots of knowing – deep critical disclosive knowing.
74. Knowing what to refuse is a complex multi-scalar undertaking of disclosure.
75. While refusing surface features can have some success, but the more of an apparatus/assemblage/way of being alive one that can be disclosed, refused and blocked the more that you will afford yourself the possibilities of being actively receptive to novelty.
76. Even with a system in place to block standard habits, tools, concepts and environments – one cannot just sense novelty.
77. Sensing is sense-making – it is an active process of co-emering a reality (the affordance process).
78. To sense differently one has to do differently – it is an active experimental highly scaffolded (extended environment building) process.
Remembering Knowing Non-Knowing
79. A key practice for creativity is a practice of deliberately and actively dwelling in not knowing.
80. Remember: It is only a creative experiment that engages with novel qualitative differences if you do not know – and cannot know the outcome.
81. A creative process involves “a non-knowledge of what has not happened” (John Cage).
82. But, not to forget the paradox – of course one always “knows” what things are (and what will happen) – the difficulty is to cultivate an experimental practice that can both know and effectively for the period of the experiment not-know.
83. Where does one start after one blocks everything?
84. One follows forces and events that pull one in new directions – new “lines of flight.”
85. These forces and events are exaptive processes that do not lead towards new answers, outcomes, or even solutions – but new ways of being alive – new worlds.
86. These co-emerge with an experimental practice that are iterative in nature – nothing is happening all of a moment.
87. Bock, act, probe, sense, develop, revise the blocking, repeat…
88. Thus the qualitatively new is not “discovered” – how could it? It is not something already in existence – it is co-emergent with activity.
89. At every step it is something that is made – collaboratively developed.
90. But the word ‘discovery’ is useful in that it suggests that the qualitatively new is not our invention – we did not make it – it has agency in the process.
91. We are nurturing a “more-than” process of non-linear co-emergence – and we too will be the outcome of the process.
92. Critically, co-emergence is an ecological practice – is made by developing a new set of scaffolds (new ways of being embodied, extended, embedded, enactive and affective – as a collective more-than-human project).
93. Immanent in this process is the co-emerge of the qualitatively different – it too is something that must be made.
94. Here we are still not the authors – creative processes are types of feedforward processes – what Brian Massumi calls “the event of self-futuring serially repeating itself” – but in a manner that reshapes the very terrain of its emergence.
95. How should we understand this iterative process that is “serially repeating” itself into becoming?
96. What is a creative process if not a new cyclical self-organizing semi-stable process that begins to gain a qualitative difference, an autonomy and an identity?
97. This autonomous process is a type of “epicycle” – a new cyclical process that has budded off an existing cycle (via a process of blocking and experimenting).
98. What cycle is it budding off from? The existing assemblage/apparatus/world.
99. The qualitatively new emerges as an epicycle – a small and weak looping process at great risk of being pulled back into the existing apparatus/assemblage.
100. It needs active protection (specific forms of siloing) to gain autonomy and agency.
101. But it also needs to act in a feedforward manner to effect a change on the world from which it emerged.
102. A feedforward process is one in which one process changes another but remains itself unchanged.
103. All radical creativity involves an emergent epicyclical and feedforward process.
An Experimental Ethos of the Negative
104. Concluding reminders: If you can know it – ideate, imagine, vision, articulate – then it is not radically new – you are bending difference to the known.
105. Creative practices with the goal of participating in the co-emergence of the qualitatively new inherently involve a deliberate practice of non-knowing.
106. This is a non-reactionary perspective/curiosity – for it is not not fixated on reducing novel differences to what "is" and "is not" – existing forms of representation and identity.
107. This requires experimental action that begins in blocking the “is” and “is not.”
108. It experimentally welcomes radical uncertainty and radical non-knowing.
109. It is an experimental practice of staying with unknowing or what could equally be called “emptyfullness” – that which is empty/outside of existing categories and is full of radical potentialities that if cared for in an active co-emergent manner will give rise to qualitatively new forms of being and doing.
110. This is a practice where ethics are immanent and enacted.
111. It is an asymptotic practice – one surrenders to never arriving – never returning…
112. on the way to…
Well that is it for this week! Be well enacting what comes next...
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