Welcome to Emerging Futures - Volume 73! A New Alphabet of Creativity...
Good morning fellow creatures of words.
This week we have been working away on a number of tasks including preparing to speak at the National Academy of Sciences conference: Strategic Innovation and Commercialization - Supporting IP and Tech Transfer to Advance U.S. Research Competitiveness. We’ll be speaking on the panel: Next Horizons and New Models for Driving Innovation Landscapes Across US STEM Sectors. You can attend the discussion virtually if you are so inclined - February 8, 2023 at 3:00pm EST.
But our primary task this week was working on our glossary.
To do anything well requires a set of practices, techniques, tools, environments and concepts – and to use these well there needs to be a shared understanding of what things mean – a shared language.
This shared language will be far more than words – it will be a shared vocabulary of gestures, embodied states, habits, and practices – but it will also include words.
To do anything new it is even more important to figure out a new language. A new language has as one of its key focus for the development of novel concepts – concept creation. New words are an expression of the development of new concepts and new approaches.
This work of concept creation might involve coining new words, (such as affordances, assemblages, enaction and exaptation), but most often it involves the work of experimental redefinition. Both of which lead to their own confusions and frustrations. But ultimately the new and the different require a new vocabulary – there is no way around this.
Words are tools, not representations, and as such their definitions are user guides – suggestions for pragmatic use and not the final truth of a term. As new uses arise with new practices new definitions are needed.
For us, recognizing that words have no fixed, proper or final definition is critical. Words are how they are used. And the definitions follow from our everyday creative acts of ongoing innovative meaning making. One of the great joys of being alive is playing with language – making meaning in our lives.
When the first modern dictionary, the Oxford, was being conceptualized there was a very serious debate about what constituted a definition. On one side there were those that believed that only the “proper” definition of legitimate words should be included, and on the other was the belief that all words and all meanings needed to be included in an open and ongoing manner. Wonderfully, the latter won and we have the living glorious entity that it is. For a sense of how wondrous and complex this is check out the seemingly simple and trivial word: set – which takes up a couple of pages. The main point is – words are what they do, as we do new things in new ways and new concepts arise so will new words and new meanings – it's just us being alive and creative. Give yourself the permission in your engagement with creative processes to invent concepts, and words – it is necessary.
Glossaries are wonderful and necessary repositories of unique practices. It is unfortunate that there are not more of them. A favorite of ours, that can give one a great example of the possibilities of a great glossary is John Protevi and Mark Bonta’s “Deleuze and Geophilosophy A Guide and Glossary”. Wiley Press produced for years a series of glossaries on philosophers that make for interesting reading.
Undertaking the making of a good glossary is a massive labor of love. We certainly have the love and passion, and we really know about the labor aspect – but time, sadly, is finite. Our book “Innovating Emergent Futures” has a glossary, but it is not nearly as all encompassing as we had wished (that would have added another 200 pages!). And on our website, which is the natural home of a glossary, has hosted our glossary – but it has been a glossary that has until now been somewhat neglected. As one of our resolutions for this year we decided to make a concerted effort to really improve the glossary.
Today, with this newsletter we are rolling out our improved glossary – it is still a work in progress (we have about a hundred concepts in the pipeline to add, and more to say about the words we have defined), but it is much improved. Our goal is to have solid definitions, good diagrams, examples and many internal and external links for a couple hundred key concepts by the end of the year.
Each month we will be adding concepts and revising our usage guides. But, this is not something that we do without you. We hope that you use the glossary and in doing so please suggest changes, resources, and words you wish us to include (and anything else).
A fun game to play with words and glossaries is to come up with lists of alphabets for topics. Gilles Deleuze made a wonderful one near the end of his life where for each letter in the alphabet he talked about a concept (A is for animal…). To encourage a joyful browsing of the glossary here is a sampling of the beginnings of a possible alphabet for creativity – a literal ABC – we really hope that you enjoy and find this of great use!
Here are a few we’ve (re)published to get you started…
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