Welcome to Emerging Futures -- Vol 23! Emergence & Ecology for Experimental Impact...
Good Morning fellow engagers with emergent creative processes!
This morning we arose early with the darkness of the moon setting to put the final touches on this newsletter.
It has been a wonderfully busy and hugely inspiring week for us — we have been teaching a highly intensive and fully immersive innovation workshop in NYC and environs on ecological change making to an international group of college students.
It began last Friday pretty much right after we sent out the last newsletter. We met everyone in the middle of Central Park for a picnic.
Starting in Central Park was an important beginning point. While the park might look like it is shaped out of an existing natural state — an “original” state of nature, it is a wholly co-shaped landscape. Tens of thousands of tonnes of rocks were blasted out, and tens of thousands of tonnes of soil were moved in. Many human and non-human communities were removed and new communities brought in. Central Park was made into a place of “nature” alongside the project of making a world of humans and non-humans.
Being in Central Park allowed us to attune ourselves and the students (via a number of exercises) to the reality that we are always co-shaping environments via a mutually reinforcing set of habits, and practices. It allowed us to attune ourselves to the reality that the concept of an “original state of nature” is itself an emergent framework arising from a specific history that itself needs to be considered critically.
Over the course of the day in the park (and later at the Metropolitan Museum of Art) we came to recognize that “nature” is not a universal experience, and that nature is a constructed conceptual framework. Which is to say nature really exists because we (the “we” here being far more than just humans) carefully and collectively made it so via a series of long historical processes.
And in the language we are using — “nature” is an emergent framework that is a whole system property which in turn shapes and transforms all the components of the system in an emergent self-reinforcing loop. We (humans) come into being and live in a world with nature (the space of non-humans) and we take this mode of worldmaking to be reality.
In the newsletter and on LinkedIn, over the last month we have been introducing the concept of emergence and how we can work with emergent processes to develop innovative changes.
Last week in the volume 22 of the newsletter we introduced a simple exercise to begin to understand how to work with emergent innovation. We gave you a list of 14 key practices, and then we imagined how we could use these ideas to cook an egg differently. We moved really quickly from getting a sense of the system to blocking heat to developing probes and experimenting.
(We hope that you tried out some of these ideas with your own cooking experiments. Blocking heat is a hugely interesting and transformative experience).
Having the experience in the kitchen of sensing, blocking and probing in our bones and movements we can now shift to examples that have more tangible implications in the world in a manner that is grounded in the practice of working with emergent processes.
This is what took us to Central Park last Friday and over the week to locations as diverse as Newtown Creek, Smiling Hogshead Ranch and the Earth Room — we were interested in putting these concepts to work beyond our classrooms and our kitchens.
To develop something different you first have to know what you are and what you are doing. Before you can block something you need to get a sense of the system — its emergent processes and patterns. This is no easy task:
We are so fully of a world that it is fundamentally impossible to completely explicate it. In this regard Martin Heidegger was correct — we cannot fully state what conditions us to be who we are — it is an emergent condition of implicit embodied things, environments and practices. The impossibility and great difficulty of fully explicating how we are of-a-world leads us to assume that we are not of a world but simply all live in a singular universal (non-emergent) reality.
But we can get a good sense of how we are indeed of-a-world by techniques of careful and considered alienation. One great practice for doing this is immersing yourself in other worlds:
Knowing that other worlds exist and using their perspectives allow us to sense our world as a world and not the grounds of all reality (this is why we took our participants to the Met for a series of embodied exercises in experiencing other worlds).
And it is only then that blocking can really strategically and experimentally begin.
For example, when we recognize that Animists (the indigenous peoples of North and South America) engage and co-emerge with a reality where all things are humans (rivers, plants, animals, chairs are all people) — we can begin to sense the contours of our world. We sense that we are of a world where there are humans and non-humans and where the humans live in “culture” and the non-humans live in “nature”. And we sense this is not just a question of perspective and subjectivity — but an emergent reality that arises out of a set of practices and environments.
Now we can ask speculative and experimental questions for ecological innovation:
This allows us to diagram the assemblage (of our mode of being a world), see how matter is canalized into these patterns and a set of processes and fields of probability emerge in this specific world.
And now a set of concrete experiments could begin:
And this brings us back to last week's cooking experiment: blocking heat is one of those things that will experimentally do this.
When we cook without heat we are forced to cook with living beings and processes (fermentation for example). This changes everything — in fermentation cooking becomes an act of ecosystem building and nurturing rather than killing. You are keeping a set of critters happy and content.
These are questions of following and co-emerging with a process, joining and co-creating a movement, and allowing a novel world to emerge and begin to have an agency of its own.
These are questions that cannot be answered in advance of doing. New worlds can only be made and not ideated in advance.
Curious about fermentation and where collaborating beyond heat might take you along novel emergent ecological pathways? Here are a few of good starting points:
It is always surprising how one change (blocking heat for example) opens up such radical possibilities worth exploring and co-emerging with.
Over the next few weeks we will be exploring some concrete examples of how new worlds emerge.
We hope you have a curiosity filled weekend and week.
Till Volume 24,
Jason and Iain
Emergent Futures Lab
We’re How You Innovate
📚 P.S.: For a new model of worldly creativity – check out our book
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🏞 P.P.P.P.S.: This week's drawings in Hi-Resolution