BE.POIETIC.PUNKS: WHAT IF YOUR REBEL HEART RAN FREE?
We are at a point of transition. Of many transitions. Global politics, business, and technologies are shifting shape. And we are shifting with them. The question is: do structures form us, or do we form structures? The Italian Operaismo movement of the 1960s believed that it’s ultimately the people who change systems. So, we should look at our own agency and wondering – how can we shape the world around us?
Understanding poiesis is key to influencing this global transition. Poiesis simply means “becoming” or “bringing forth.” It means to act from the heart – heroically even – to contribute to something larger than oneself. In philosophy, the concept describes the poetic and aesthetic realities that surface through human reflection and emotional expression. What comes about through poiesis are subjective truths that are ethical, humanistic, and spiritual. Being in poiesis can be a liberating, even ecstatic, sensation of congruence between body and mind. Imagine what the future of work would look like. A future in which you do what you love, with people you like, towards something meaningful that protects resources and ourselves.
Sound like a fantasy? As a design ethnographer I have dedicated countless hours to exploring poiesis and social innovation through storytelling, collaboration and hands-on education. As part of my PhD, I co-founded a collective called Learn Do Share, a group of collaborators sharing their minds, hearts, and hands to invent new ways of working and learning. The collective’s poietic work has gained momentum and attention from people and organisations wanting to join the movement. We have worked with the United Nations, UNICEF, Columbia University, and Google Creative Labs, and recently ran games at OUIShare Paris and Re:publica Berlin.
Recently, some of us developed Be.Poietic.Punks, an anarchic game all about exploring poiesis. This culture hacking game is designed to give people an experience of their political agency with the aim to elicit associative ways of co-creation. Part 1 is a sci-fi card game employing anarchic collective problem solving fusing sci-fi storytelling, speculative design and rapid prototyping. In part 2, participants create an “exquisite corpse” style wall carpet, representing a remixed story of the project that was prototyped in part 1 of the game. At the end, dancers and musicians perform an ad-hoc choreography based on the wall carpet story. The process throws everyone into disorientation, intense time boxing, and lots of laughter. We simulate process as something largely unplannable, and I’m interested in testing how people react to embracing such chaos, giving up their instinct to control the environment. The whole game is a mad challenge to trust intuition and associative reasoning.
Another project is called Sherlock Holmes and the Internet of Things (IoT). This MOOC (which we call a Massive Online Offline Collaboration) is an ongoing prototype developed and run by Learn Do Share at Columbia University. With meet-ups in close to 20 cities, 1000+ collaborators from over 60 countries, the pilot MOOC creates a massive connected crime scene consisting of smart storytelling objects. Teams take on roles from the novel to create, design, build and test prototypes in local and global groups. They explore the ethical and political implications of IoT. By creating shared assets collaborators raise questions on shared authorship and ownership, which ultimately leads them to engage with new concepts. A transition to the commons as a way of exchange is one example.
Termed “commons transition”, the concept is associated with a movement and policy proposals aimed toward achieving a more humane and environmentally grounded mode of societal organisation. Business and social researchers alike articulate what such an economy would look like and which policy recommendations would be required. These ideas of a “social knowledge economy” is based on free an open access to knowledge as well as circular modes of exchange. Our goal with Sherlock is to introduce as many people as possible to options that help them rethink their Ayn Randian neoliberal parameters.
All this may sound a bit unattainable, but as Margaret Mead famously said:
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
This small hand drawn mystical creature is based on the Greek nymph God, Pan and the Midsummer Night’s Dream elf, Puck. I drew it as the center piece for an interactive bricolage. It’s a work about lust and mischief; and about the suffering it involves. The temptation is represented by a beet, a melancholic vegetable in Tom Robbins’ magical realism.
I’m lecturing a rad MOOC! It’s called Sherlock Holmes and the Internet of Things (IoT) and because of its experimental setup we renamed MOOC a Massive Online Offline Collaboration. The MOOC itself is an ongoing prototype developed and run by Learn Do Share at Columbia University. With meet-ups in close to 20 cities, 1000+ collaborators from over 60 countries, the pilot MOOC creates a massive connected crime scene consisting of smart storytelling objects. Teams take on roles from the novel to create, design, build and test prototypes in local and global groups. They explore the ethical and political implications of IoT. By creating shared assets collaborators raise questions on shared authorship and ownership, which ultimately leads them to engage with new concepts.
We’re working on a co-ethnographic documentation, so there’s more content to come. Here‘s an overview of the program.
I have created two brief video lectures that I shared in two separated posts here and here . They’re super DIY, though.
For the MOOC that I lecture in (Sherlock and the Internet of Things) I created two short vids. The focus is on a few interrelated topics I have been researching for a while. Here’s the second vid and a short intro below.
In our Sherlock MOOC, we create shared assets and raise questions about shared authorship and ownership. That means we’re dealing new concepts of society, such as creative commons.
In this clip I briefly introduce the underlying concept: the commons. It has a long history, meaning public owning and sharing, and it has often been deemed as tragedy. I explain why that is and give some aspirational reminders what it takes to overcome this obstacle. My main point is that the key to success lies within everyone themselves as much as in between two or more people. To consider someone else’s interest as much as your own is not altruism but a smart way to accomplish a life of poiesis, which we talked about in session 1.
The term “commons transition” is associated with a movement and policy proposals aimed toward achieving a more humane and environmentally grounded mode of societal organization. Business and commons researchers alike articulate what such an economy would look like and which policy recommendations would be required. These ideas of a “social knowledge economy” is based on free an open access to knowledge as well as circular modes of exchange. Sherlock wants to train as many people as possible to rethink their Ayn Randian neoliberal parameters. This transition is tricky, because we’re doing “poiesis” which is easily confused as Randian, so we need to clarify how these two work together.
For the MOOC that I lecture in (Sherlock and the Internet of Things) I created two short vids. The focus is on a few interrelated topics I have been researching for a while. Here’s the first vid.
Why is this important? Global politics, business and technologies are shifting shape. And we are shifting with them. The question is: do structures form us, or do we form structures? The Italian Operaismo movement of the 1960s believed that it’s ultimately the people who change systems. So, we are looking at our own agency and wonder – how can we innovate the world around us? This is poiesis. My philosophical introduction to poiesis explains the concept in more detail, and how we can actualise it in collaborative spaces.
See second vid here.
And then I wrote a second – more orthodox – thesis and got two straight 1s. Same topic as PhD #1 (see why it failed here) but PhD #2 has a completely different setup and argument. It’s an easier read than #1 but has fewer interesting ideas.
Creativity Unbound – An Analysis of Open Collaboration between Experience Design and Poietic Practice
This thesis concerns social engagement at the intersection of open design and media technology. The study reflects on the practice of a group of creative entrepreneurs, who seek new methods and contexts for collaboration both online and offline. My case is an international collective called Reboot. They co-produce games, narratives, and workshops that aim at engaging others to become activists for social innovation through experiential learning and applied creativity. I investigate what drives them, what they desire, how they learn, and how they co-create. The core problem is: how does a focus on innovating process shape the way individuals approach work and life? Ethnography forms the central research method. It tracks the exchange and performance values expressed by members of the Reboot collective. I use an experimental enactive research design, which enriches current academic practices in media and design ethnography.
As a theoretical framework, I draw on cultural topology. More specifically, I focus on three characteristics of topology – contiguity, continuity, and poiesis. Headed by these three pillars, my chapters include theories on performativity, affect, and free labour. My data substantiates the workings of these three topological characteristics individually and across chapters. Firstly, in terms of contiguity, I investigate performativity as a theoretical possibility within a topological framework. Reboot offers physical spaces for collaborators to connect. Here, I argue, the group facilitates productive contiguity. I scrutinise their experience of interaction enabled by design in order to make an assessment about performative agency. Secondly, with respect to continuity, I examine affect as a driver of relationships and activity. Reboot facilitates remote collaboration through digital online technology. I show that affective interaction helps to re-establish connection and build relationships to foster further engagement, and that these practices corroborate continuity. Lastly, regarding poiesis, I discuss the notion of free labour against the backdrop of commons-based peer production. I show that collaborators frame their free labour in an emancipatory fashion that reflects high hopes for virtuous behaviour among collaborators and ignores worries of exploitation. I identify this practice as poiesis.
This matters, because these collaborative producers are found to act upon their hopes that they can co-create long term systemic change in society; they experiment with new tools to do so; and they spread their techniques by engaging others. This thesis thus locates itself amongst – and adds insights to – current debates on human passion that drives socio-technical innovation.
1.1. A QUESTION OF DEVIANCE AND PASSION?
1.2. CASE OVERVIEW
1.4. CHAPTER OUTLINES
2. METHODOLOGY: EMERGENT ENACTIVE RESEARCH
2.1.1. GAINING ACCESS
2.1.2. FROM STUDYING PRACTICE TO STUDYING DESIGN PRACTICE
2.2. ENACTIVE MULTI-SITED RESEARCH
2.2.1. MEETING THE TEAM ONLINE AND IN PERSON – WHAT CHANGED
2.2.2. IN(TER)VENTION AS DATA: LEARN DO SHARE BOOKSPRINTS
2.2.3. DESIGN AS DATA: WISH FOR THE FUTURE OPEN DESIGN GAME
2.2.4. USAGE OF DIGITAL PLATFORMS
2.3. EMERGENT RESEARCH FROM FIELD TO THESIS
2.4. TOPOLOGY: CONNECTING DATA, RESEARCH, AND OUTCOME
3. CONTIGUITY: PERFORMATIVITY IN NARRATIVE CO-DESIGN
3.2. THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK
3.2.1. PERFORMANCE AND PERFORMATIVITY
3.2.2. NARRATIVE DESIGN AS PERFORMATIVE AGENT
3.3. EMPIRICAL INVESTIGATION
3.3.1. IMPERFECTION: INCOMPLETE BY DESIGN
3.3.2. INTERVENTION: HACKING AS METHOD
3.3.3. APPROPRIATION: CONTIGUITY AS CATALYST
3.4. DISPERSED PERFORMATIVITY: WHAT DRIVES TOPOLOGICAL CULTURE?
4. CONTINUITY: AFFECTIVE ENGAGEMENT
4.2. METHOD: AUTO-ETHNOGRAPHIC ENACTIVE RESEARCH
4.3. THEORETICAL PLACEMENT
4.3.1. AFFECT AND EMOTIONS
4.3.2. REASONED AND EMOTIONAL VALUES
4.4. EMPIRICAL INVESTIGATION
4.4.1. PRINCIPLE 1 – HOW AFFECT ENGAGES: APPRECIATION
4.4.2. PRINCIPLE 2 – HOW AFFECT ENGAGES: PASSION
4.4.3. PRINCIPLE 3 – HOW AFFECT ENGAGES: PROMISE
4.5. DEEP, FLEETING, AND ALLURING AFFECT
5. POIESIS: FREE LABOUR AS EMANCIPATORY ACTUALISATION
5.2. THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK
5.2.1. CAPITALISM CRITIQUE
5.2.2. COMMONS-BASED PEER PRODUCTION
5.2.3. CONSIDERING POIESIS
5.3. EMPIRICAL INVESTIGATION
5.3.1. FREE LABOUR AS ENTREPRENEURIAL AGENCY
5.3.2. FREE LABOUR AS ALTRUISM
5.3.3. FREE LABOUR TO BUILD SOMETHING BIGGER
5.3.4. FREE LABOUR AS ENTREPRENEURIAL TRAINING
5.4. A POIETIC NON-LABOUR SYSTEM?
5.4.1. BELONGING TO SOMETHING LARGER THAN YOURSELF – REVOLUTION
5.4.2. KINDNESS AND ALTRUISM – SELF-EXPLOITATION
5.4.3. GIVING LEARNING EXPERIENCES – VIRTUE
5.4.4. EMANCIPATORY AGENCY – ENTREPRENEURSHIP
5.5. THE DO GOODERS
5.5.3. TOPOLOGICAL ACTIVATION
This is the first version of my thesis, which I changed quite a bit after I got the feedback that it’s a bit too creative and wild. Both versions are fully written. This one is more eclectic and creative, the other is more orthodox and less complex (see other here).
Creativity Unbound: Parables of Co-Creative Process Under The Premise to Open Everything
This thesis examines the intersection of social technology and open storytelling. At its core is what drives experimental co-creation among creative entrepreneurs. Open storytelling is a field of interactive arts that seeks new methods and contexts for co-creation. Opening access raises questions around promises and discomforts of such seemingly unplannable co-production. A central theme is self-organization through performance and exchange. The core problem is: How does a focus on innovating process shape the way individuals approach life and work? Answers can be found in this ethnographic case on the design and performance values expressed by members of the Reboot collective. Reboot attracts collaborators, who come to learn, imagine, do and share.
Each chapter indicates a field of tension in which principles of co-creation are discussed and evidenced by practice and design examples. Chapter B takes [play/labour] as a framework and looks at civic engagement and project organization (learn). In chapter C, the bracket [discipline/affect] offers a view on aesthetic reasoning through the principles passion and empathy (imagine). In chapter D, the bracket [story design/performativity] highlights principles of incompleteness and synaesthetic mimesis, poiesis and kinesis (do). In chapter E, the bracket [potential space/affordance] delineates community cultivation and project-based co-entrepreneurship (share). At a meta-level, five axioms can be derived: (a) practices corroborate synaesthetic reasoning to make sense of the digitized world; (b) activities are situational and ephemeral, defying systemic stabilization; (c) online and offline practices open up an omnidextrous third space through which techniques flow across from one domain to the other; (d) if constraints are not outside the body they come from inside (self-discipline) and in-between (empathy); (e) incomplete designs invite engagement.
As a theoretic framework, the author develops a dyad concept drawing on Kress and Leeuwen’s multimodality and Lury et al. and Lash’s notion of topology. Her methodology uses a rigorous and multi-layered activity research design, which adds new perspectives to current academic practices in media and design ethnography. Spanning media, arts, design, social sciences, cultural studies and anthropology, the thesis is placed amongst – and adds rich insights – to current debates on human activity in socio-technical environments.
1. A QUESTION OF DEVIANCE AND PASSION?
2. WHAT’S AT STAKE: CO-CREATION
2.1 Reboot Creativity
2.2 Creativity as Play
2.3 Creativity as Remix
2.4 A Taxonomy of Co-Creativity
2.5 Co-creativity is Emergent
3. CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK: THE 3RD SPACE OF CULTURAL TOPOLOGY
3.1 Considering Design and Process
3.2 Cultural Topology
3.3 Topology as Abstract Language
3.4 A Fledgling Pattern Language
3.5 Style and Reflexivity in a Topological Approach
4. PLACEMENT AND SIGNIFICANCE OF STUDY
// LEARN – Subversive Play: Free Labour as Civic Engagement
2. THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK
2.1 Pervasive Play and Free Labour
2.2 Serious Play and Experiential Learning
3. SUBVERTING NORMS THROUGH INFINITE PLAY
3.1 Principle 1 – Deviate: Disruption and Intervention
3.2 Principle 2 – Improvise: Speculation and Grit
3.3 Principle 3 – Augment: Iterate and Transform
4. PLAYING REALITY
// IMAGINE – Affective Reasoning: Heuristic Sense- And Decision-Making Through Empathy And Passion
2. THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK
2.3. Between Affect and Discipline
3. SENSE-MAKING: NAVIGATING THE SOCIAL IMAGINARY THROUGH EMPATHY
3.1 From Meme to Theme
3.2 Conceptual Language
3.3 Balancing Literal And Associative
3.4 Empathy As Compass
4. DECISION-MAKING: HARNESSING PASSION
4.1 “Choosing” Intensive Engagement
4.2 Hurdling the Arduousness of Self-Discipline
4.2.1 Deep Affect: The Personally Meaningful
4.2.2 Fleeting Affect: Collective Momentum
4.3 The Power of Oscillating Discipline and Affect
// DO – Performative Storytelling: Narrative Design As A Purposeful Utility
2. THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK
2.2 Purposeful Storytelling
2.4 Narrative Design as Performative Agency
3. APPLIED PRINCIPLES: USING STORY TO “DESIGN WITH AND FOR”
3.1 Focus on Poiesis: Incomplete By Design
3.1.1 Science-Fiction, Otherness and Imagination
3.1.2 Story Beats
3.2 Focus on Kinesis: Intervention by Design
3.3 Focus on Mimesis: Appropriation
3.3.1 Transportation and Transformation
3.3.2 Declining Performativity?
4. CONCLUSION: OPEN STORIES AS PERFORMATIVE INTERVENTIONS
// SHARE – Community Cultivation: Co-Entrepreneurship By Affording Project-based Micro-Businesses
2. THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK
2.1 Potential Space
2.2 Commons-Based Peer Production
2.3 Affording A Common Potential Space
3. PRIMARY PRINCIPLES: FRANCHISING AND INCUBATING
3.1 Franchise: Network and Change over Income
3.2 Incubation: Social Good over Monetization
4. SECONDARY PRINCIPLES: SHARING AS CO-ENTREPREUNEURS
4.1 Power Share: Letting Go of Control (Individual)
4.2 Goal Share: Balancing Self-interest & Commonality (Collaborative)
4.3 Skill Share: Lending Talent (Collaborative)
4.4 Knowledge Share: Circulating Assets (Public)
5. SCALING AND BRANDING POTENTIAL: A TRIPLE BIND
// CONCLUSION – Learn, Do, Imagine, Share: Towards A Collaboration Methodology
1.1 Recap Cardinal Principle 1: Learning
1.2 Recap Cardinal Principle 2: Imagining
1.3 Recap Cardinal Principle 3: Doing
1.4 Recap Cardinal Principle 4: Sharing
2. ON DESIGN, AESTHETICS AND ROMANTICISM
3. OPPORTUNITIES FOR FUTURE RESEARCH
Tags: outside the box, design fiction, purposeful play, participatory storytelling, design thinking, media ethnography, new media, new commons, indie punks, share culture, networked economy, collaboration, co-creation, experiential learning, liminal threshold, activity based learning, DIY, peer production, social innovation, artistic research, digital boheme, crowdsourcing, crowdsharing, social experiences, agile management, social entrepreneurship, collaborative entrepreneurship, Gen Flux, creative entrepreneurship, media commons, labeling, digital humanities, human-centered design, storification, avant-garde
It amazes me every time how much love and imaginence DIY Days participants give to make these books happen. This edition is special as we evolve our format. It features the 1st out of 4 steps of our EDIT co-design process: E stands for Empathy, the following books will cover Define, Ideate and Test. In L.A. we collaborated with the Goldhirsh Foundation to substantiate the empathy phase. Looking into an extensive report on the status quo and trends for L.A., our group discussed, mapped and created 9 new projects that are well and truly underway now. You can get in touch if you’re keen to shape the world around you!
Another treat are the metamaps that are scattered throughout the book. The entire event, and most importantly, our design challenges, were mapped as browser-based amplified mindmaps on metamaps.cc. If your work is related to sense- and decision-making, you should check it out!
Lastly, a big shout out goes to Designful Studio for giving the book an absolutely loveable design and helping us re-brand Learn Do Share. We think they captured LA’s “diversity as identity” in every aesthetic stroke.
You can open the book by clicking on the image. And see our previous books here.
Writing about the opacity of project documentation with respect to the sensational rhetoric that surrounds them, I searched for an essay I had written a few years ago. Raoul Eshelman’s book Performatism or the end of Postmodernism is at the heart of my argument. Apologies, my writing style follows a German narrative arc, in which the academic resolution comes at the end and is not revealed in the intro.
Here’s how it starts.
The thing about performance, even if it’s only an illusion, is that it is a celebration of the fact that we do contain within ourselves infinite possibilities.
Sydney Smith 1771-1845
It seems as if Sydney Smith had already looked at performance from a postmodernist and performatist perspective long before both had been conceptualized. I can only speculate if ‚the infinite possibilities within ourselves’ refers to the interpretative volatility of postmodernism or the author-centered transcendence of performatism. Both explanations make sense, although Eshelman contains that postmodernism contradicts performatism. In this article, I will try to assess ‚performance’ within theoretic classifications, starting with classical concepts that link theatrical and everyday behaviour.