The Cycle of Forms

An introduction to an experimental methodology for intellectual makers to prototype chaos as a process of sensemaking through an exploration of creation and interactive destruction.

Sensemaking, the cycle of ordering ideas, is a process of making, translating abstract, metaphysical ideas into an artifact. Information theorist Brenda Dervin asserted that ideas are made by a fluid relationship between order and chaos. Sensemaking is not the arranging of words on paper, a claim to power, or a rhythm of categorization, instead it is a process of creation, of human design.

Can an idea undergo a form-finding process, transitioning from abstract to object? Deleuze describes “pure becoming” as when the simulacra competes with both its model and its copy, it becomes a truthful act of creation. Opposing Plato’s shadows, our methodology is for “makers”, where the abstract idea has the potential to become pure object: expressible, sharable, tangible. The initial idea imposes order on our world, the object receives it, manifests it.

Here, however, the cause and the effect reverse itself, there is a “mad element”, a chaotic twin half. This is because the artifact is inherently an interactive object, made by human, social and inquiet beings, it therefore contains a provocation to interact. This is its second half, a “rebel becoming”, a dichotomy, a ying and yang.

This “rebel becoming” is expressed through the unknown futures of the human performance, the chaotic half. The performance of the user is provoked by the object’s form, a form that, remember, had been determined by the initial ordered idea. And so the ordered half yields to the chaotic half, the unpredictable interaction space is its demise, a destruction. In the invisible space of interaction, a human performance, there is a dialogue, unpredictable thoughts and actions, taking the idea/object and mutating the information that created it. It has become something else, the original is destroyed in the chaos. Does the new simulacra compete now with its past original? When does the maker redesign, arriving again at the pure becoming of the idea/object?

It is this process of pure becoming to rebel becoming, that is the act of sensemaking, the dialogue between creation and destruction, a formalized idea/object, transmuted into an unpredictable motion/action. In the smoky aftermath of the chaos, we have learned from the interaction, we have a new idea, a new order to impose, and to make pure through the creation of another artifact. And so the cycle of sensemaking continues: find form, interact, destroy, reimpose.

Here, as new media artists, makers, thinkers, technologists, we ask ourselves, at what point is an artifact not a prototype? We assert that this end phase of finished perfection never exists, because the rapid cycle of sensemaking never allows the object to survive its interactive destruction. In this sense, every artifact is an experiment for further metaphysical probing, asking questions, making assertions, and erasing them, starting again. In this methodology, thinkers and makers are one in the same: intellectual makers, prototypers that formulate their abstract ideas through interactive objects.

We propose a methodology that reveals the stages of pure becoming and rebel becoming, showing artists, thinkers, and makers how to create an artifact with duality, inspired by ordered ideas and designed with the expectation of interactive chaos. It begins by going through this sensemaking process with their hands, always focused on form-finding as the path to assertions, but accepting the beauty of the endless cycle, welcoming the experimentation.

This methodology resonates most completely with our contemporary world of maker movements, social design, collective consciousness, the internet of things, the realization of Marshall McLuhan’s “turned on” world where everything is connected. When we think of the artifacts of our lives, we realize that they are all idea/objects, facing imminent destruction as we pick them up, using them to connect, discover, express, our rebellious destruction through interaction. But with each turn of the cycle, we are sensemaking, factualizing, informing through our process of creation.

Motivated by this contemporary relevance, this is an experimental methodology, born through our own prototyping process at Imagination of Things. Ready for testing, the methodology will continue to develop as a teaching metaphor. Advanced and refined, intellectual makerhood could spread and inspire the makers and technologists, the social designers, the global activists that are prototyping alternative futures.

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