1515184571-featured.jpeg
Dave Snowden

The abstract and the liminal

RSS Feed

 

I’m now reaching the end of this series and I haven’t exhausted all the characteristics that distinguish human systems from others in nature but I think with this post I will have the main ones mapped out and tomorrow’s conclusion will pick up the pieces. In this final post I am looking at two aspects, the role of the abstract (mostly manifested as art) and the ability of humans to create liminal states, to understand and cross boundaries or maintain a state of suspension between states.

While the origin of art in human evolution was almost certainly an accident, its subsequent evolution can be mapped over multiple purposes. Abstraction allows us to make novel connections between things. Music helps reflection, I have a lot of my best ideas in the Opera, Mary Midgley famously argued the role of art in her classic Science and Poetry. But it evolved to provide symbols of authority and status, but that mundane use can also create inspiration, a sense of the other something way beyond material need. We see art in nature, we have a sense of beauty that can inspire and unite; form is as important as function. Any accounting of a human system needs to take account of the nature and utility of art and its very closely related cousin craft.

Liminality is currently close to my heart with the development of the liminal version of Cynefin. The idea that we can hold things in a state of suspension (as aspect of art in its own way, just read a book or go to a play) means that we can hold possibilities open for longer. We can also actively choose to make a boundary transition and through management of constraints achieve boundary changes. This is my final and most critical aspect of human systems, and the point where I depart from people like Stacy: human beings can create order.

 

 

 

 

Art work: Dr K D Farris Liminal Space: A Passageway to Transformation. “

  • http://www.thebrokeronline.eu Wim Nusselder

    Can you give a reference to Stacy’s position that you depart from?

    • Dave Snowden

      He thinks everything is complex – any of his books make this clear. He removed the Stacy matrix because he thought it might people think that traditional management was possible

      • http://www.thebrokeronline.eu Wim Nusselder

        Thanks, I understand now and I agree that (artificial) order is possible.
        It squares with what I learned from Geert Hofstede’s “The poverty of management control philosophy” (1978) and “Management control of public and not-for-profit activities” (1981).

  • Anders Dinsen

    Why do you think art was an accident?

    • Dave Snowden

      Most evolution happens that way

      • Anders Dinsen

        Probably, yes. It’s interesting to think of art as an invention/solution to a problem. I would intuitively think of it as an emergent property of being human. Are you not limiting yourself here to think about the “job function” of performing arts?

        • Dave Snowden

          Someone scratched some figures on a cave wall, it had utility. But they the capability had utility way beyond any intent (even if there was one). Performing arts are one of the advanced stages of an evolutionary process. And of course we know that artifacts have a profound influence on the evolution of the brain and body anyway – Sumarian counting tablets triggered a capacity of abstract numbers for example. The evolution of art will be similar

          • Anders Dinsen

            I agree if I think of art as a conscious activity or skill. However, I would say that a fundamental of the human is that we have values, and one of them is beauty, so that we have a sense of aesthetics, and that works of art emerge as a result of individual and collective couriosity about the interaction between the body and its surroundings. I would say that this is supported by child Development, which is said to repeat evolution: Children first perform artfully with an urge to destroy, later they find ways to create. On top of that is conscious skill development, of course.

          • Dave Snowden

            I’m talking about origin and evolutionary value so that takes into account the underpinning nature of aesthetics (which I would not classify as a value). As to the idea that Children repeat innovation I’m not at all sure I buy that

Top