*More details on the Event coming soon.
Informal thoughts carried into the organization of the Event *lifted from online Hub discussions
Enabling Constraint vs Framework or Structure. An enabling constraint is a jumping-off point, more a springboard than a structure. The constraints create a field of relation that effectively enables and orients activity without governing how it unfolds or predetermining either its form or specific content. Example: the field of gravity is the enabling constraint for dance, but dance is not framed by it or structured by it. Rather, dancing converts the predictable, inescapable demands of gravity into a creative force for its own form-taking, tangent to the pull of gravity. Enabling constraints put in place conditions for emergence. The emergence tangentially exceeds the frame, and is self-structuring in a way that is one with its own unfolding movement. Observation: for enabling constraints to work, they must be taken on truly as constraints — that is, as non-optional, just as gravity is for dance. Challenge: setting in place constraints that truly constrain, that are directly taken on by the group as such, but are just as immediately felt to be conditions of freedom (emergent, self-deciding form-taking).
Conditioning vs. Organizing. Enabling constraints sets in place a rigourous field of relation orienting certain kinds of potential. What they do is best thought of as “conditioning,” rather than “organizing.” Organizing sets the frame, which then contains the actions within certain parameters. Conditioning triggers a self-organizing movement that invents its own parameters.
Activating vs. Initiating. Initiating carries the idea of a preexisting subject, whose intentions are carried out. Even if the subject is a group deciding collectively what its intentions are, the aspect of intentionality is a limiting factor, for the simple reason that it tends to limit what emerges to what can be pre-thought. Activation catalyzes a movement that is constrained to take rigourous form by how the field of relation is conditioned. The movement thinks itself out in how it effectively unfolds. It is its own emergent subject. The arc of its unfolding is the dynamic, embodied “thinking” of its conditions of emergence. The result, being emergent, always surprises (it exceeds any initiating intention that may have contributed to the catalyzing). This is what Erin refers to as an “emergent collectivity” — collective because what happens cannot be claimed to have been caused or organized by any one factor separable from the others, but rather dynamically works itself out between them.
Relational Movement vs. Participation or Interaction. The idea of participation singles out an individual factor, and construes the relevant factors as human individuals. It sets in place a frame for interaction. This pre-subjectivizes, and pre-forms what can happen (by designing into the framework certain stimulus-response functions). Relational movement includes among the creative factors (and enabling constraints) nonhuman elements (gravity, lakes, pixels, technological apparatuses, site conditions, materials, bears …), and does not think in terms of function or stimulus/response or action/reaction. Participatory design always come across as task-oriented. The participants start by receiving instructions, or sussing out what is expected of them and what the functional parameters of their task is. Relational movement starts by the clinching into place of enabling constraints that immediately translate into movement. It is not task-oriented, but immediately moving (in all senses of the word). There is no need for cogitation before plunging into the action. You have already taken the plunge the moment you cross the threshold into the relational field. (Hence the importance of techniques for setting the threshold conditions.)
Proposition vs. Instructions. This distinction is really at the nub of what we’ve been talking about doing at Mekoos and Bioscleave, which is taking on Arakawa + Gins’ idea of “procedure.” A proposition in the sense we have used it in earlier SenseLab events is a synonym for “using enabling constraints to trigger conditions of emergence activating self-organizing potential.” This is obviously very different from giving instructions that propose an interaction. But the tricky part is that instructions can in fact be enabling constraints. Perhaps a “procedure” could be thought of a proposition that includes instructions among its enabling constraints. Question: how to use instructions in this proposition sense, in a way that does not frame or structure an interaction, but helps trigger a relational movement?
We’ll be discussing the Arakawa+Gins reading on “Biotopology.” How can a concept of this kind operate as a “proposition”? What kinds of enabling constraints does it ask for in order to live up to its potential as a proposition in this self-organizing triggering, emergence-orienting sense?
Experiments on Materiality and Procedures – Procedural Materialities