Flow: Interactional Creation via Experience Ecosystems
In this short article, I introduce real experience ecosystem logic (I will call this REEL for now) in six parts.
This piece is the full pre-edited fully-articulated script of the new Umio film, Flow (which you can view at the end of the article).
1. Humans both design-create and are creations in and of the natural-material reality of the world.
Our world reality is constituted of phenomena.
Whole phenomena formed of inseparable and ongoing flows of interactional creations of natural matter and energy, human and non-human living beings and bodies, and human-made objects, technologies, forms and spaces.
Folded into this reality of interacting (and in a sense intra-acting, entangled) agencies of nature, objects and things in space are human practices of observing, knowing, measuring, boundary-setting, and describing reality; practices that (re)configure and designate material, natural and socio-cultural entities, and which with them constitute the reality of always-becoming dynamic phenomena to which we belong and in which we interact.
2. Real experiences are generated within flows of interactional creation.
Within this whole flowing reality of real phenomena, where the agencies of human practices of knowing, being and doing are inseparable from the productive agencies of matter and objects in nature, there is the flow of phenomena of real experience — the sensations, feeling states, and transitions that endlessly unfold in embodied human and non-human lives.
Like the notes and chords forming the melody of a song, or the intra-acting forces of matter and energy producing eddies, vortices and currents forming a flowing river (or a stream of consciousness per William James ), real experience is constituted from a mix of sensations that ebb and flow in their force, quality, intensity, persistence, and relevance in our own real (non-representational) sense of time.
3. Real experiences are enactive, open and interactionally and intra-actionally produced
In this worldview of flowing real experience phenomena, we should be especially concerned with understanding and explaining the constitution, creation, differentiation, and repetition of real experiences, not just asking questions of what they are, how to describe them, or how they objectively differ.
We must not approach understanding of real experience via blunt representations of emotions or quantifications of parts of experience. Both have little resemblance to actual real experience.
Rather, we must see real experience as arising in four inter- and intra-acting domains of agency and affect creation — bodily-motor, social-cultural, material-spatial, and perceptual-cognitive, each bearing certain entities and practices that intra-act to produce distinct qualities, contents, capacities, and expressions of real experience at the core.
4. Common or shared real enactive experiences, their creation, differentiation, conditions and possibilities are the primary phenomena of interest.
In a reality of flowing real experiences, negative forces or powers of affect can overwhelm, intensify and sediment the real experiences of many people, whether dispersed or concentrated in places, environments, and communities, and/or in racial, gender and other social groups.
We can distinguish common real experiences using one or a combination of empirically derived contexts such as representations of chronic disease (for example, pain, diabetes, cardiac disease), types of disability (blindness, physical), or (less empirically observable) mental illness (such as depression, stress, or anxiety).
Contexts that we can narrow and localise further using an identity of place, environment, setting or social group.
We can also distinguish common real experiences using less empirical, more existential representations such as experiences with poverty, with work, with discrimination, with climate displacement, with consumption, or with ageing.
5. A context of common real experiences can be studied and addressed via an open cut-out of flowing reality — an experience ecosystem
To see, know, explain, and act with purpose and positive impact in a context of common real experience, I make a cut-out of the whole flowing reality of interacting human and non-human agential and practice phenomena, a cut-out or frame that I call a real experience ecosystem.
Each experience ecosystem contains assemblages of relations of entities and practices bearing affects, tendencies and capacities for seeing, knowing, forming and differentiating experience.
Assemblages whose practices of representation not only delineate the outer limits of an ecosystem for an experience context, but whose agencial intra-actions variously produce differences in the content, qualities, capacities, and potential of the real experience context within the ecosystem.
Assemblages of creation that we can explore by looking in turn through each of the four domains of agency and affect creation in our real experience creation model into the other domains, using the lens of existing disciplines, practices, and knowledge in each domain.
We can do this not just for a primary actor or experiencer for the chosen cut or context, but also for all those directly or indirectly influencing the experience within the experience ecosystem; we can adopt a multi-experiencer worldview.
6. Real experience ecosystem logic provides new paths for knowledge, creation, and design
A real experience ecosystem logic (REEL) helps us to open-up a context of real experience to better see, understand and modify:
- the forces of production, differentiation, and repetition of a focal experience
- the tendencies of belief (ontology) and method (epistemology) that influence how we determine knowledge of that experience
- the limitations of current practices of innovation, design, valuation, organisation, and action for the real experience — whether as affectors or affectees
Now, via the frame of experience ecosystems, our collective task is to provide more complete, more accurate, more radically empirical, and also more useful genealogical accounts of the origin, differentiation, and persistence of real experiences.
We can produce thicker explanations of the nature, process, and content of the becoming of our reality (of which we are a part with nature).
We can find novel paths to undo stuck, narrow, representationally poor, or siloed tendencies, powers and practices of observation, method, and knowing of real experience.
We can see through, beyond and transcend the boundaries of fragmented scientific and social disciplines and fields.
We can remake our research methods, measures, technologies, and services using a relational view of whole becoming real experience.
We can extend our sense of design and possibility to the creation of real experience phenomena, an extension that includes the reconfiguration of the very onto-epistemological and ethical practices by which we see, differentiate and act within real experience.
We work with a permeable cut-out of dynamic real experience phenomena, not just a static model of actors interacting with resources around a beneficiary.
A cut out that explores differences as well as transitions or movements in common real experience.
A more-than-human cut out that redefines our notions of causality and agency and that replaces the dominant focus on the individual human, body and parts, intentions, and behaviour.
Fundamentally, we can inform the design of mutually reinforcing and radicalising propositions that can help to create desired, and prevent and recover unwanted, experiences.
Discover the framework in my book, visit the Umio Centre for Real Experience Ecosystem Design and join the Umio Community at community.umio.io, and take six minutes to check out the new Umio film below.
Thinking inspired by the thoughts and writings of Henri Bergson, Gilles Deleuze, Felix Guattari, Karen Barad, David Bohm, Niels Bohr, Brian Massumi, Nigel Thrift, Michael Foucault, and Roberto Mangabeira Unger.