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#NewMacy Studios @RSD11

Published onAug 22, 2022
#NewMacy Studios @RSD11


Pille Bunnell, Carlos Castellanos, Damian Chapman, Kate Doyle, Xiao Zoe Fang, Mikal Giancola, Michael Lieber, TJ McLeish, Paul Pangaro, Eve Pinsker, Eryk Salvaggio, Larry Richards, Fred Steier, Mark Sullivan, Claudia Westermann


#NewMacy emerged in March 2020 as the pandemic of COVID became the newest global wicked challenge. Since then little has changed in the fights against pandemics of biology and technology, racism and structural inequities, environment and economics. We embrace the timespan of RSD11 as “the long now” in recognition that these systemic challenges require new scales of effort and expectation across generations. We invoke the original Macy Meetings, which arose from a recognition that understanding purposive systems would be essential for addressing the failures of WWII. In the 21st-century, #NewMacy catalyzes conversations for action across disciplines, geographies, and generations through systemic principles, processes, and communities. #NewMacy creates conditions for enacting productive responses among individuals and communities that bring about change in the near-term, while planning for and committing to the time-span required to effect lasting change.

Our current focus is a new framing for “ontogenesis,” specifically, that of developing new ways of becoming. To survive in a changing world, we must embrace resilience in lieu of security interpreted as constancy. Hence we substitute ontogenetic resilience as our framing intention — and Cybernetics as key. 

How might we practice ontogenetic resilience? We begin by embracing the human as the basic unit of change. Conversation is the unifying process. We adopt a structure of themed and design-led “Studios” that are explorations of ontogenetic principles. These Studios identify cultural sites where ontogenetic resilience is needed and where we may pursue inclusive and recursive modes of experimentation. The purpose of the #NewMacy Studio construct is to enable deep participation through activities such as prototyping, play, exploration, enactment, and improvisation. The following Studios at RSD11 will enact conversations for action across the middle days of the symposium:

  • Radiant Circles — Cybernetic Musings on Resonant Forms 

  • Pandemic of “Today’s AI”

  • Art as Steersmanship

  • “Panarchy” as a Sense Making Tool

  • Cultural Premises, Conscious Purpose, and Design

  • Prototyping Conversation

After the Studios we will all gather for a final conversation to consider: What’s next? How do we grow into an increasingly inclusive ecosystem of Studios? What new, vital activities will we design? The dialogue, collaboration, and matchmaking performed in this session serve as the means for a recursive process of integration and synthesis, one directed toward ongoing, empathetic, intelligent, and sustainable action.

Keywords: Pandemics, wicked challenges, second-order Cybernetics, systemic change, ontological security, conversation, ontogenetic resilience, recursive feedback.

ACT I: Re-defining Stability

Thursday Oct 13, 6:30PM – 7:30PM BST

Virtual session (with those attending in-person to gather together)

Co-Leads: Pille Bunnell, Carlos Castellanos, Damian Chapman, Kate Doyle, Xiao Fang, Mikal Giancola, Michael Lieber, TJ McLeish, Paul Pangaro, Eve Pinsker, Eryk Salvaggio, Larry Richards, Fred Steier, Mark Sullivan, Claudia Westermann

This introductory session sets a contextual framing for #NewMacy and the #NewMacy “Acts” at RSD11. We begin with an overview of #NewMacy — its emergence in 2020, the principles for action that evolved, and our current activities. We then move forward by looking back to an excerpt of the now infamous interview of Gregory Bateson and Margaret Mead by Stewart Brand. By performing this historical piece, we invoke participants from the original Macy Meetings of the 1940s and 50s to establish our lineage with those also committed to a second-order cybernetic epistemology. Next, we explain our construction of “ontogenetic resilience” as a framework for approaching today’s wicked challenges and a framework for the #NewMacy activities at RSD11. We end Act I with a Batesonian metalogue that provides conceptual foundation and instruction for the Act II Studios occurring throughout Friday and Saturday.

ACT II: Studios

All participants in RSD11 are invited to attend any and all of the following Studios, occurring throughout Friday and Saturday. Participants can expect to converse, prototype, experiment, play, and improve. Some Studios will be held entirely virtually and some will be held in hybrid format.

Radiant Circles — Cybernetic Musings on Resonant Forms

Friday Oct 14, 2:00 PM – 3:30 PM BST
Virtual Studio

Co-Leads: Eryk Salvaggio, Claudia Westermann

Through resonance, works of art and design are centering. In openness to expansion, they grant agency. They create closure and consummation but never stasis. They are circular. Join us to explore how Gordon Pask’s ‘conversation’ as aesthetic experience initiates ontogenetic resilience via processes that devalue established hierarchies of oppression. In the process, new ecological values are instigated and cultivated.

Pandemic of ‘Today’s AI’

Friday Oct 14, 7:00PM – 8:30PM BST
Virtual Studio

Co-Leads: Carlos Castellanos, Xiao Zoe Fang, Paul Pangaro, Eryk Salvaggio

So much of today’s tech manipulates and distorts the world we share. Yet ‘Today’s AI’ could swing back toward our biological roots by presenting analog interactional frameworks as countervailing examples. Novelty and choice, transparency and conversation can become new design patterns in a collection of concepts and working prototypes that inspire positive change. These exemplars in the form of interface designs and underlying algorithms will be offered to designers, students, teachers, and entrepreneurs as more humane and richly rewarding alternative to today’s online experiences.

Art as Steersmanship

Friday Oct 14, 9:00PM – 10:30PM BST
Virtual Studio

Co-Leads: Mark Sullivan, Fred Steier

As Maxine Greene showed, art looks at openings to alternative realities, makes the petrified world speak, sing, and dance, creates places for perceiving the unexplored, and thinking of things as if they could be otherwise. We invite a discussion of intimations of more desirable and multisensory social orders. In particular, we will bring Maxine Greene's idea of seeing things as they might be otherwise to systemic approaches to the design process - particularly with its importance to taking needfinding (as developed by Rolf Faste) seriously as ways of seeing new possibilities and seeing what is not there as critical to design.

“Panarchy” as a Sense Making Tool

Saturday Oct 15, 11:20AM – 1:00PM BST
Hybrid Studio

Co-Leads: Pille Bunnell, Mikal Giancola

With the added complexity of the results of the Anthropocene, models like the Adaptive Cycle will be used to orient discussion and action on the intersection of ecosystems and social systems. The Studio will include the application of real-world scenarios.  

Cultural Premises, Conscious Purposes, and Design: Conversing with the legacies of Gregory Bateson and Vern Carroll

Saturday Oct 15, 2:00PM – 3:40 PM BST
Hybrid Studio

Co-Leads: Tim Gasperak, Mikal Giancola, Michael Lieber, Eve Pinsker, Fred Steier, Daniel Wolk

Analytically identifying "cultural premises" (which Carroll developed from Bateson’s “epistemological premises”) is a way of stating what goes without saying, the shared assumptions or ways of parsing the world and construing context that are socially learned, usually unconscious, embedded in stories as well as embodied in interaction, and shared in varying degrees in wider communities.  We will share cases from both ethnography and design practice to discuss the relationship between identifying cultural premises and dialogic explorations of ‘sense-making’ and, furthermore, whether incorporating cultural analysis in innovation research methods can serve the larger purpose of designing beneficial social interventions, bearing in mind Bateson’s warnings against narrow notions of conscious purpose.

Prototyping Conversation

Saturday Oct 15, 4:00PM – 5:40 PM BST
Hybrid Studio

Co-Leads: Damian Chapman, Kate Doyle, TJ McLeish

Our studio is a cybernetic workshop in which participants explore new modes of constructing conversation. Our (adaptable) goal is to provide participants with vocabularies and processes of prototyping — experimenting, improvising, and playing with expressive forms as means of interaction, observation, and feedback. Participants can expect to journey toward a destination determined only by their continuous adaptation of traces marked in sound, gesture, and image. We propose that, by prototyping new modes of conversation, participants become aware of the experience of navigating “wicked challenges” — thus allowing a greater variety of identities and ideas to emerge.

ACT III: Re-Introducing Stability

Saturday Oct 15, 6:00PM – 7:00PM BST

Hybrid Session

Co-Leads: Pille Bunnell, Carlos Castellanos, Damian Chapman, Kate Doyle, Xiao Zoe Fang, Mikal Giancola, Michael Lieber, TJ McLeish, Paul Pangaro, Eve Pinsker, Eryk Salvaggio, Larry Richards, Fred Steier, Mark Sullivan, Claudia Westermann

In Act III we collectively build foundations for ongoing conversations and collaborations.

We open with a multi-part conversation in which participants critique and develop ideas constructed during the Friday and Saturday Studios. (Note: those not able to attend the Studios are still most welcome to participate in Act III.) Our goal is to develop and expand #NewMacy conversations so that we may construct an ever-inclusive and participant-directed platform for dynamic stability and growth. What questions might we ask, what ideas might we explore, and crucially, what concrete steps can we take to support and sustain these conversations? Participants engage through an exercise that models question-generation and conversation networks. At the end of this exercise, all will be invited to situate themselves in the poetic — which we associate with ontogenetic resilience — in order to provide a feedback that becomes recursive in its performance and use.


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