[See ... Affordances, Micro-global structures, discourses, fractured narratives, diaspora, algorithms, malgorithms, alt-mafia, etc ... feel free to add/edit etc ... ]

This is an (ongoing) ontology for the project on resonances of knowledges. It emphasises the new, micro/global relationships in the instantly connected ecologies of our tribalist global village.

The point about resonance is that it can amplify practices and knowledge in paradoxical ways: either to close down variation and diversity, or to enable and even encourage the emergence of innovative practices and new knowledge.

The descriptive tools that we need to build a framework for our new social ecology form a nested ontology of dynamic, predominantly relational (rather than discrete and static), and reflexive (rather than linear) factors: e.g.

  • signs, which are the product of the dynamic relationships between two difference systems: signifiers and signifieds;
  • affordances, which are the product of the dynamic relationships between actors and their microenvironment;
  • identity, which is a reflective sign of the capabilities of of particular actors (i.e. what they can, and are prepared, to do), albeit consolidated within shared experiences in micro-cultures; and
  • strategic knowledge, which is the product of the dynamic relationship between formalised knowledge, resources, and context.

Together, these describe the way in which agency and emergence is enabled, and balanced, by structure.

Affordances are the products of interactions between the actor and the environment. Each interaction contributes to the way the actor acts in, and makes sense of the world, and potentially changes both the actor and its micro-environment.

Affordances are realised within the ongoing development of the actor's identity, within social communities and within broader social discourses. Exploring and exercising affordances has consequences, depending on who or what you want to be, and to become.

Agency is ...

Ambiguity ...

(re-edited notes, copied from Questions about resonance)

The creation of autonomy, within signs and cultures, as well as within individuals and their identities, is fundamental to the nature of semiotics and social semiotics. Autonomy (and alienation) is essential to bridge the analysis between linear and complex descriptors within our overall idea of social.

I had not previously 'joined the dots' between the alienation of the sign and the alienation of the individual (or, the self-differentiation of the individual) from particular contexts. In both cases, semiotics provides the mechanisms for 'lifting off' (of the sign in one case, and the individual's identity in the other) from context, to provide 'autonomy'. Autonomy includes both independent action (of signs, algorithms, etc), and independent initiative (of individuals), or agency. The two often seem to overlap.

The result of this 'independence' is, on the one hand, the creation of signs that 'take on a life of their own', particularly as they transform and develop from particular 'signs of uses' to more complex/abstract syllogisms, algorithms, programmes, discourses etc, and, on the other hand, the development of individual affordances, capabilities and identities which, just like signs, can 'take on a life of their own', as they become alienated from particular contexts - and which can, further, consolidate that 'autonomy' within the fractured narratives and pop-up diaspora of micro-communities (and which nowadays can emerge and 'go viral', at very large scale, very rapidly). [slang?]

[Aside: Mirror phase, anyone, for reflective semiotics? Along with description, recognition and reflection as a key triad of tropes?]

Syllogisms / algorithms and their derivatives, nested signs, capabilities, ‘programmes’, scientific theories, policies, etc form the basis for autonomy – and provide both individuals and signs with ‘currency’: i.e. the facility to be ‘passed around’, and/or to ‘run around’ across contexts, and to emerge into/with new forms and new levels of abstraction, with or without the constraints of a broader common social framework. These in turn add to the power of such individuals (or signs) as the new attractors (if the relationship to context is deep) or merely new celebrities (if it is shallow).

Signs/algorithms, and ‘individuals’ are both inherently viral and autonomous, which means that they are, in principle, capable of being ‘free’ agents – i.e. free of contextual constraints – to develop innovative, emergent behaviour, and to become new cross-contextual attractors, for good or evil. That’s one of the central, if not THE central paradoxes of the social.

Or as Umberto Eco put it so succinctly, a the definition of a sign is "something that can be used to lie". So we need to add to the adage that every use (can) become a sign of itself the codicil that and every sign can (also) be used to lie.

It is no wonder that radically ‘open’ social media, and radically open (aka free) markets provide a wealth of both. And this demonstrates the inherent problem of emergent systems: that there is no sustainable emergence without appropriate constraints. The fact that 'free' (as in market) social media have thrown up a new generation of ‘oligarchs’ (financial, political and social) should come as no surprise. Without constraint they tend to become, ironically & inherently, anti-social. Left to their own devices, the logic of their environment enables (even tempts) them to become financially, socially and politically autonomous to an extreme or, simply, feral.

By this logic, we could call all/most dictators 'feral celebrities', and, ironically, in this particular sense, Theresa May's adage that 'citizens of the world are citizens of nowhere' is true - extreme wealth is by definition global, feral, and totally alienated from any particular citizenship (although to be on the safe side, many of these global citizens purchase a portfolio of passports, just in case: the current price ranges between about 1/4 of a million and 1 million dollars, depending on which country you are buying from).

AI Autonomous Intelligence (extrapolated from Autonomy)
The penny has just dropped. The issue is neither 'artificial' nor 'intelligence', both of which makes it sound all exotic and 'sciency', and both of which are distractions. The issue is simply: autonomous signs, and autonomous signs-nested-in-networks/systems (aka: 'intelligence') which are as old as the hills, from the first pheromones to gestures, words, syllogisms, geometry theorems, computer programmes, genes/memes/& temes, etc. To paraphrase Bill Clinton: 'it's the autonomy, stupid' (that you have to be mindful of). Artificial shimshal! (See also MAD, one of our key balancing acts: of 'autonomous' mutual assured destruction, our high-risk 'rebottling' of the cold war genies).

All signs are artefacts, so they all have the potential to become autonomous - that's the whole point (of semiotics), and of communities, which are, contra Theresa May's ideas, the basis for people being 'citizens of the world': semiotics leaks.

And the most ubiquitous example of 'autonomous intelligence' is the 'free market'. It's only when you call it out as the 'autonomous market' that the full irony hits home. It's not that it doesn't have its own logic, uses, and even 'intelligence', it does. It's just that it needs constant 'adult supervision', as various (recent) economic crashes have shown. The question is: which adults get to do the supervision, and on whose terms? If ever there was a watchword for autonomous systems, it's Adam Smith's invisible hand (of the 'free' market).

Complex-Adaptive Systems (or Networks) produce emergent behaviour, based on frequent interaction of a multitude of largely autonomous agents, within large degrees of freedom, but within some - negative - constraints. This behaviour is not predictable, but it does makes sense retrospectively, giving rise to formalised, complex (as opposed to prescriptive) knowledge.

Discourses are sets of texts and practices that order texts and bodies (animate and inanimate), with a community of interests. Discourses are the primary unit of analysis for meaning, identity, and power, not texts or signs. They are often embedded in particular narratives and cultures, and/or the disciplines of formalised knowledge.

e-rocracy is one of the emerging morphs of bureaucracy, based on rule by algorithm. e-Rocracy incorporates what used to be called 'intelligence profiling' and the freemium business model. It may stray into the realms of click-bait, trolling, and even fake-news.

The freemium business model ... provides services 'free at the point of use' which can create a community of users, &/or a captive (and closely interrogated) audience for marketing and influencing. This means that there is often a contradiction between 'free' and 'point of use', because: i) 'free' might include handing over your life profile, which becomes a commodity, owned, sold-on and used without your knowledge by any willing buyer, for any purpose they choose: and ii) the 'point of use' can be defined in ways that are anything but free, as many users of the NHS in the UK are now discovering, with the 'rationalisation' of services resulting in fewer and fewer, and more and more distant, 'points of use'.

The Global Village is where we find ourselves now. As McLuhan reminds us, from the prescience of his 1969 Playboy Interview, this is not a unified, consensual village, but rather (particularly for now) a "tribalist" one, of adversarial, fractured narratives and pop-up diaspora.

Knowledge is the capacity for effective action. It may be stored, accumulated and shared in texts, &/or events, &/or in embodied practices.

Light traces and short bursts of traffic are yet another paradoxical characteristic of our ambiguous / digitised / fractured / micro- global village.

On the one hand they are nothing new - they are text-book 'phatic' communications / resonances, e.g. greetings, which enable you to get in touch and stay in touch, but which have very little substantive content. [Aside: The isiXhosa song, and dance, phata-phata (or touch-touch - with some suggestive overtones) has serendipitous resonances with 'phatic' communication (even though 'phata' is pronounced with an aspirated 'p' rather than as an 'f')]. So, phatic communication allows you to open up communication with other people, with little or no commitment; many greetings lead to nowhere in particular, but they do offer recognition, and affirm the other person's presence (see Big Bird's favourite line in Sesame Street "it's nice to be seen").

On the other hand, greetings may lead to a substantial conversation. This is the beauty of lightness - it's something you put out there for people to pick up on and take further - or set aside - as they choose. But it is the essence of emergence, change, and innovation in all open, or complex-adaptive systems, which are based on 'multiple interactions between many agents, with large degrees of freedom' - sounds like a good description of Twitter.

However, emergence also requires some constraints - preferably negative ones (specifying what is not allowed to happen), rather than prescriptives ones (specifying what must happen). Without these negative constraints emergence does not happen, and the communication quickly decays into noise, into confrontations around prescriptive, predetermined positions - sounds like a good description of Trump. And then there is no recognition or affirmation of presence, just an inflation of the presence of the speaker. And if there is resonance, it's only with people who already share the speaker's prejudices.

So the affordances of lightness and short bursts of communication [and the phatic, asynchronous (largely) written texts of the new social media genres] can go either way - towards affirmation and emergence of a broader community, or to draw deeper boundaries around existing prejudices.

It is possible to develop the necessary 'negative constraints', and keep communication open: see for example the Open Source software community's protocols (particularly: "don't feed the trolls"). But that's a particular, constructive mode of 'free' speech, something quite different from a 'free for all' (e.g. what Milo et al tried to impose on others in September 2017).

The combination of lightness and negative constraints is, paradoxically, the basis for resilient emergence. Phatic communication, within such a framework, is an 'essential oil' for long-term, creative, stable, sustainable development. There is a world of difference between 'social' media and 'click-bait' media, but that has yet to filter through to hyper-monetised digital platforms, or to a broader consciousness.

Memes are ...

Meta-semiotics is ...

Micro-global structures are ...

Does an ontology have to include a boundary on 'obscenity'? I think so, yes. (See the essential role of 'negative constraints' in building a sustainable, resilient (emergent?) social ecology, elsewhere ...)

To start with, obscenity is about excess, and Dickens's Scrooge is a good starting point. Billionaires can be defined as people who would have to spend at least £1million each year for 1,000 years to use up what they 'possess'. That's a good working definition for obscene excess.

Secondly, a business model based on 'click bait' is just raiding the sewers of humanity, no? I would include that in 'obscenity' too.

Thirdly, the bling/gin palaces of the idle rich, both in the countryside and on the seas, are monuments, past and present, to obscenity. Where to draw the line? Taking a look at National Trust properties, for example, a useful line might be drawn between the tasteful approach of Nuffield Place, versus some of the monuments to bad taste that the NT carefully preserves (take your pick). (Nuffield was reputed to have been the richest man 'in the world' at the time he lived there. See also Jan Smuts House , a wood and iron house situated in virgin grassland, when he was Prime Minister of SA, Chancellor of Cambridge University, ecologist and classifier of indigenous grasses, snakes, etc).

Resilience is far too fashionable a term. However, it might be a better starting point than 'emergence' or (even more left-field), 'complexity'.

So, we might begin with resilience, which is the ability of a network (of cultures, people, cells, genes, memes, etc) to adapt to changes in the micro- and macro- environment.

This is a particular reading of Darwin, and his algorithm "the survival of the fittest", which in the first instance has little or nothing to do with brute force (just ask those gigantic dinosaurs), and much more to do with the ability to adapt, to be nimble, creative, etc. The human brain's much lauded plasticity, H. Sapiens' extended neoteny (delayed sexual maturity) and our synaesthetic ability, are key mechanism for resilience, followed perhaps by micro-affordances, like the promiscuity of 'nucleus-free' bacteria, to mechanisms of selective gene expression, and epigenetics.

Openness is ...

Resonance(s) are ...
[Edited from: 21/8/17 Co-opting Resonance against the Other? Take #2]

... interesting at a range of levels; the first of which is when the action of one agent resonates with that of another one. The second level, where reflexivity kicks in, happens when the second agent becomes aware of that, and realises that their action 'resonates' (or makes sense) in a wider social context. Or, to put it another way, we could add to the definition of a sign ("every use [potentially] becomes a sign of itself") the codicil that "and ... every sign [potentially] resonantes with other similar uses/signs/users".

The first level is not much more than what my philosophy tutor (Johann Degenaar) used to call "a nice warm feeling". The second level is the base line of the development of culture - or shared, self-aware, resonance. It 'echoes' from one person to another, and back. It moves on from 'this is the way you and I do this' to 'this is the way we do this' (in our culture). Culture then takes on its own self-awareness, over and above that of the individuals, and becomes a collective agent in its own right, determining its own semiotics, and its own 'right' way to do things.

It would be easy to conflate this development of culture (or micro-culture) with the development of knowledge. But that's sloppy thinking.

Culture (as semiotics and as praxis) only becomes knowledge when it is shared within a framework with a rather more substantial dose of rigour, scepticism and openness. Openness, in turn, is not just another level of nice warm feelings; rather, it is radical scepticism, and must satisfy the falsifiability test. (In short, if a statement cannot be falsified, it is faith at best, and hocum at worst).

This is the third level of resonance, where we find 'knowledge' per se, as a particularly formalised type of open resonance.

And knowledge itself splits into two modes: it can be either 'predictive' or 'emergent' . In short, knowledge is either predictive into the future, or complex-adaptive (or emergent), i.e. in cases in which a rigorous logic of the development of events can be traced, retrospectively, but only in hindsight. What this means is that knowledge can be used to ensure 'resonance' into the future (watch the error bars, though!) ... or ... it can be used to confirm 'resonance' from the past.

Signs are relationships between specific signifiers (or 'markers') and signifieds (systems of difference, or perceptual/conceptual 'cut outs'). They may be stored and shared in texts: i.e. the traces that the use of signs leave behind in memory, dreams, documents, artefacts, embodiment, the unconscious, and the physical environment.

For example, highways 'carve out', and differentially valorise, different parts of the landscape - in both cities and the countryside. Dogs too can be read as texts - the poodle (nee 'puddel-hund') was first bread as a hunting dog in Germany, hence the unusual haircuts, which have been revalorised into Parisian cafe-life accoutrements. A definite 'resonance upgrade' for the dogs.

Meaning arises out of the shared use of these complex, interacting, 'difference engines', or as Barthes says: "every use (can) become a sign of itself".

Synaesthetic Ability

Temes are ...