Sunday, 29 November 2009

Self-Organisation and Emergence

Been looking over a few articles on modularity this evening (and being distracted from my work) and found one article with two particularly interesting definitions. I'll finish the article tomorrow and maybe write up some more. For now, here are my thoughts on the definitions.


Emergence is a classical concept in systems theory, where it denotes the principle that the global properties defining higher order systems or "wholes" (e.g. boundaries, organization, control, ...) can in general not be reduced to the properties of the lower order subsystems or "parts". Such irreducible properties are called emergent.


Self-organization may be defined as a spontaneous (i.e. not steered or directed by an external system) process of organization, i.e. of the development of an organized structure. The spontaneous creation of an "organized whole" out of a "disordered" collection of interacting parts, as witnessed in self-organizing systems in physics, chemistry, biology, sociology ..., is a basic part of dynamical emergence.

So, now I'm thinking of writing a sci-fi novel where the revolution is referred to as The Emergence. It's even better than the Singularity!

But anyway, the second definition is particularly useful. If we see the capitalist system as a whole, and do not conceptualise the working class as a discrete, identifiable (i.e. ordered) element within this system, we can see the development of a socialist society as a process of organisation.

In this process, the working class moves from a "'disordered' collection of interacting parts" which share basic characteristics, to a highly ordered group. This group then engulfs particular elements of the system as a whole while discarding or destroying others, so that we can say that a new society emerges.

The role of the revolutionary organisation then becomes guiding this process of self-organisation in such a way that the new society can emerge.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Elements of a thriller

The thriller has a broadened scope to its forebear, the detective novel. This means more elements in play; a more complex system, therefore requiring more mental juggling on the part of the reader. This can be made easier by maintaining strict sequentiality in narrative lines, so that characters' actions (and illustrative description, side-story etc.) follow the plot trajectory as closely as possible. In this way, each action automatically references the last, and the integrity of the overall sequences can be maintained in the reader's mind.

Constructing a Story

A Story is constructed from a situation. It takes this complex situation and uses it to produce a wholly new form of content. It is a way in and thus contains all the practical and ideological baggage of accessing, understanding and expressing this situation, mediated by the formal necessity of expressing it as a story (or an opinion piece, etc.).

The formal necessity means that the publicising of the situation is mediated by a specific form that itself contains ideological elements, structural requirements and immediate practical concerns.

Example: the famed Jan Moir article on Stephen Gately

The situation was that SG had been found dead in his apartment. He had died (in his sleep I think) after returning home from a night out. Himself and his civil partner had invited another man to stay with them that night. The coroner had preliminarily announced that the death was natural. The family had stated that there was a history of congenital heart problems.

The story constructed brought together these facts, and ordered them into an opinion piece, with a specific aim - to provoke sensations of disturbed moral conscience in the readers.

It did this by emphasising the aspects of the situation that suited a moralistic reading - homosexuality, civil partnerships, drugs - and discounting the elements that undermined this - coroner's statement, family's statement.

So, elements of the situation are worked into a coherent piece in such a way as to produce a particular effect upon the readers. In this case, Moir misjudged her readers, and what was produced was outrage against her, not a sneaking reinforcement of homophobia.

The key distinction between Red-tops and broadsheets is what range of responses they attempt to elicit in the readership. Redtops favour strong emotions like outrage, fear, disgust, scorn, etc., while the broadsheets confirm their readers' self perception as alert observers of the world around them, able to grasp all sides of complex situations, etc.

On identifying as Anarchist

A person is not simply an anarchist when they implement and recognise the merits of certain tactics, organising principles, etc. They are an anarchist when they abstract and generalise these principles into a vision of a different society.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Culture and Strategy

That's the sign in the Ford Motor Company war room. I've written before about leadership expert Sam Chand's theory that "Culture is more important than vision" and it's true. It doesn't really matter how great your vision is, or how brilliant your strategy. If you don't create a culture where vision and strategy can be realized, you'll fail. It's a simple choice really. Your organizational culture can either propel you to greatness or sink your ship. Too many organizations rely on the two columns of vision and strategy. They put all their money on the vision of the leader, or their corporate strategy. But too often, at the same time they create an internal environment of distrust, bitterness, and betrayal. Don't make that mistake. Build an internal culture of creativity, innovation, and talent, and just step back and watch the breakthroughs happen.

Taken from Ok, Phil Cooke does seem to be an odd mixture of media guru and christian, but I think the quote is good. Maybe I'll check out Sam Chand.