Media Ecology: Emergence, Second Life, Real Life

Peter Jones Information Ecology

A second post on the Toronto Media Ecology dialogue. Starting from a prompt question (something like): How does emergence arise in design ecologies (see prior post below) when we are intending creative innovation?

Optimal solutions to complex design or problem situations often arise (emerge) from the improvised mix of pre-existing features and relationships in a well-diversified design ecology, analogous to a biologically-diverse ecosystem. Of course, as human agents we can accelerate the rate of evolutionary innovation when we have some control over the resources and number and type of relationships in the ecosystem. In other words, just like an enriched home environment (with toys, books, friends, intellectual conversation) helps children learn and develop, an enriched design ecology fosters innovative outcomes that we desire.

At this point inthe conversation, the turn toward general systems theory spurred a round of attaching people’s favorite theorists to the story. Buckley’s work in social systems theory, Giddens structuration, I would have tossed Banathy and Buck Fuller into the mix if we had time to go on and on. I don’t know Buckley, so if someone can comment on why we should find his out of print and >$150 used books, let me know. We did not divert into “more moderner” sociological systems theories, but instead ranged into …

  • Autonomy and agency in computer-generated worlds. And whether the advancement of AI theory toward emergent behavior in intelligent networks purchased inroads toward understanding the emergence of mind in the human neural-brain-body system.
  • But beyond empirical observations that meet an operational definition of agency, we continue to explore the issues of intentionality, desire, awareness and meaning. (Since this is my blog, I can refer to a tongue-in-cheek critique on the think:lab blog of Hawkins’ On Intelligence raising the same points, if anyone wants to drift even farther afield.)
  • And then, finally returning to implications of brain research/cog neuroscience to emergent intelligence in social networking and new media.

Such as Second Life. Which disclosed a values rift between camps of media theorists. With the “Ricardian” camp finding SK a valid arena for exploring emergence in (perhaps) genuine social relationships through avatars (implying people have no incentives to be inauthentic). And in fact that this may lead to a new form of cybercitizenship. Rebutted by the social meaning camp (me and Philomena), with several arguments addressing the meaning of citizenship and the use of new media technology as tools for improving the social world of real people, especially those disenfranchised by society and (of course) technology. (Which drew the image of “what would it do to create virtual favelas in Second Life to mimic real world situations which we must deal with as actual citizens of the world?)

People showed up and left during my 90 minutes there, changing the dynamics and topics, but the emergence of an autonomous dialogic/hermeneutic circle kept the entire conversation smoothly an eerily continuous. On further reflection, a cyclic dynamic was that of reflexive reflection – not just reflection on questions to explore further into dialogue, but actually mirror-imaging the reflective conversation, to invert the points people raised (emergence-holism, cybercitizen-citizen via cyber) to test the directionality of relationship.

So, when is the next session of the Media Ecology Cafe?