Welcome to Emerging Futures -- Volume 114! New Visualization Tools For Creative Practices...
Good morning far more than actualized beings,
It has been another busy week at every level and every way.
Last night, we were at our local city hall as part of a program we co-developed - we worked with local public high school students to help them become changemakers. It was very inspiring to see and hear them articulate urban interventions catalyzing Montclair to be more social and ecological in democratic spaces and practices.
Last Monday was our dear friend Madeline Gins birthday, she would have been 82 years old this year. She, along with her life partner and collaborator Arakawa, developed some of the most astonishing experimental projects considering how the lived body is an extended environmental body/event. Their work is a key source of our own practice. If you are in Japan, their Site of Reversible Destiny, Yoro Park, is worth great enactive exploration. If you are in the NYC area, this weekend is the last weekend to engage with A Line is a Crack at Castelli Gallery.
In the states, this upcoming week has the highly fraught and complex holiday, Thanksgiving. But holidays are great sites of experimentation and remaking of what is possible at every level. We would be excited to hear how you are participating in the re-invention of Thanksgiving.
With such experiments in mind – while this is a newsletter focused on creativity and innovation, we do not imagine that the scope of innovation is in any way limited – or that business is separate from the rest of reality. There is always much going on in the world that, at every moment, needs our creative attention. Please stay engaged – as hard as it might be.
As we have been exploring and writing about an alternative “Via Negativa” that is critical to creative practices, we have been debating and evolving our visual language that we use as a tool to engage with these practices. Words are important tools and practices – but they are never enough. Drawings and diagrams are key for us – they are never representations but rather tools to build new assemblages to experiment with the real. They activate and connect fields, forces, and practices.
Many of the most critical aspects of innovation involve working with things that are real but not actual. Systems, fields, relations, and emergent processes – just to name a few are real but virtual, and it is through them that actualizations of tangible things happen. The virtual is critical to innovation, but because it is not tangible the way a cup or a chair is, it is far harder to directly engage with. Images also help us feel the force of a concept in ways words do not. To draw the self as a diagram that loops in aspects of the environment and others disrupts in embodied ways the experienced discreteness and solidity of a self.
We wanted to test some of these drawings this week and are hoping for your feedback. Similar to the dialogue we try to promote with our LinkedIn posts, please email us with any thoughts, revised visualizations, or alternatives.
This particular set of graphic tools is part of a set we are developing as a way of visualizing the larger ontology of Creative Practices. As such, they are high-level and have the goal of keeping our focus on how the real is composed of the actual and the virtual (which is something we draw extensively from the work of Gilles Deleuze – especially Difference and Repetition).
As a high-level tool, it is quite abstract – which has the advantage of allowing us to pull together many levels, practices, and processes that are often kept separate. But if asked to do too much at a detail level, it does fall apart.
To get a sense of how we use this, we will go through the parts/process in step by step manner, starting from “us.” Let's jump in...
For us, things always start in the middle. And there is only “the middle” – things are ongoing – there is no singular origin or source.
We are of active distributed relation dominant dynamic systems. We are embodied, embedded, extended, and enactive. These are processes. And if we zoom in on any one node in a process, we will find that…
… it is process all the way “down” and all the way “up”:
In these diagrams, “Things” (the dots/circles in the diagram) are themselves further processes, lines are relations, and relations are affordances. And it is these relations that are ultimately determinative and productive/creative.
Coming back to the diagram – things are nested and entangled across scales:
And starting in the middle and locating the self, we see that the self is always intrawoven/intra-active with others, a taskspace/niche and larger historical assemblages (an apparatus). These are always mutually transforming and stabilizing. This process is a process of ongoing dynamic individuating at many scales. This process is one of co-shaping and ultimately co-emergence:
As a network comes together and individuates in a stable manner, emergent processes start to have the effect of system causation where the “whole” is making its parts. The system, in this manner, comes to have systemic propensities that mutually co-shape agency.
It is important to understand this looping process as being one of a repetition of variations. “Sameness” and stability is the repetition of a set of variations or changes-in-degree. The new is always there in all of these variations (even if it is only new in degree).
Identity as a process of capture and erasure of variation and difference is how an apparatus works at an immanent level to develop a mode of being.
But who we are and what our worlds are composed of do not begin with us. We are material beings. Matter is coming together in an organized manner to become living matter. This process of capture begins with the stabilization of variations in the potentialities of how matter itself self-organizes:
Individuated processes and networks emerge out of the self-organizing possibilities of matter itself. And the emergent system causation of networks shapes the self-organizing processes of matter. Matter is never a given as it is fully folded into ongoing processes of modes of life. These processes of capture–stabilization – in effect, “canalize” the self-organizing processes of matter to favor certain variations over others.
But what of our actions – our making? Our creativity?
When we, as Emergent Futures Lab, talk of human creativity and innovation, we are most often talking about the processes by which we develop and shape the field of the possible.
Things – actualized things– whatever they are, come as part of a larger set of related possibilities. A specific chair is part of a practice, an approach to comporting the body that is nested within a way of being alive. A chair is one specific actualization of a virtual field of possible ways to realize “chairness.” This virtual field is an emergent property of the network. It is real but not actual. It is stable, not fixed, and dynamically varies as networks and self-organizing material flows are captured into systems. (We have written extensively about this process – and how to experiment with it here).
Far too often, this critical aspect of the real is not considered in innovation processes. The god model, in its jump from ideas to actualization, obviously ignores and denies all the relevant aspects we are outlining here – but most problematically, it ignores the emergent, imminent organized field of possibilities.
Creative practices are shaping the dynamics of networks such that, on one hand, the flows of matter shift (#1 – see diagram below) and that new relations/practices, components/tools, and organizational logics/ecosystems develop at the level of networks (#2) such that a new field of possibilities can emerge (#3) and be experimentally explored/developed in an enactive manner.
Innovation is less about the actualization of any single outcome and far more about the production, development, and transformation of novel fields of possibility.
But what of outcomes?
A new “thing” is an actualization of one virtual possibility of the emergent field of the possible. This actualization finds its place within and of existing networks. And in joining networks it has a transformative impact on the total array.
Human creative practices don’t happen in a vacuum, at one scale, nor do they begin with the individual or emerge from ideas. They involve multiple forms of very different engagement at very differing levels. And to work in a necessary heterogeneous, multimodal, multi-scalar, nested, and co-emergent manner, we need new tools. We need ways of sensing the breadth and scope of the loops, cycles, self-organizations, the fields, networks, relations, and systems of emergent processes that exist and must be engaged with to innovate towards novel possibilities.
We hope that these diagrammatic tools are of use in all of this. Please take a moment to test these out. Test, sketch, and revise these diagrams – send us your thoughts, questions, diagrammatic suggestions, and alternatives. We are very interested in how all of these tools and practices can evolve in a collaborative manner.
Next week, we will take this further to explore how practices engaged with experimenting with qualitative change work within and across this logic. We will bring in blocking, the emergence of new fields of the possible, epicycles, and feedforward logics – all of which are, for us, critical to the major tasks of disruptive innovation.
Have a powerful week experimenting with and of the real.
🧨 P.S.: We facilitate workshops and the accolades are overwhelming.
❤️ P.P.S.: Love this newsletter? We'd be grateful if you heap a bit of praise in the comments
🏆: P.P.P.S: Find the newsletter valuable? Please share it with your network
🙈 P.P.P.P.S: Hit reply - feedback of any kind is welcome
🏞 P.P.P.P.P.S.: This week's drawings in Hi-Resolution
📚 P.P.P.P.P.P.S.: Go deeper - Check out our book which is getting great feedback like this: