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Life Strategy: A Five-space Model for Strategic Curation

The Strategic Curation Model

The above diagram is called Strategic Curation Model which is a five-space model.

The model is inspired by the following three-space mode.

This article will offer more details about these two models.

The Three-space Model

On Oct 25, 2022, I made the diagram below for a theoretical curation project. I wanted to curate three paths and four sub-frameworks together.

While the primary theme is claimed, the concrete solution is not clear. The primary theme is the transformation between individual actions and collective culture.

From three different theoretical approaches, I developed three paths for understanding the primary theme. How can I curate these paths into a meaningful whole?

The above diagram is not the final answer.

I need a new knowledge container to contain these three pieces.

The solution is clear. I can use a meta-theory as the container. Lui’s theoretical sociology is a such meta-theory.

The starting point of this solution is the echo between the Path of Creative Life and Lui’s ontology “The Fleeting Moment”. On Oct 2, I sent an email to Lui and mentioned this insight.

In fact, I mentioned the echo between “First-order Activity / Second-order Activity” and Lui’s realism Weberian course of action / Giddensian course of actionin an email I sent to Lui on Sep 26, 2022.

On Oct 25, 2022, I realized that the Creative Life Curation framework is located in the Hermeneutics part. Finally, I complete a puzzle.

The final outcome is amazing! What a beautiful semiotic system diagram!

What can we learn from this tiny theoretical curation project?

On Oct 1, 2022, I wrote a short note about a possible book titled Creative Journey: The ECHO Way to Creative Work Study and introduced the ECHO Way (v3.0) model for understanding Creative Cognition. The ECHO Way (v3.0) emphasizes the ecological approach to cognition and applies it to study Creative Thematic Dialogue.

I’d like to use the ECHO Way to explain this story. The ECHO Way is based on a three-container model. See the diagram below.

The above diagram is also called WXMY, you can find more details in The Knowledge Curation Toolkit #2: WXMY for Interdisciplinary Curation.

The concept of Container is the core of the Ecological Practice approach. By adjusting the quality and quantity of the Container, we can create advanced frameworks for discussing complex phenomena. The quality of the Container can be potential and actual, and the quantity of the Container can be one or two. If we develop a new framework with one potential container and two actual containers, the outcome is the above diagram.

I named the potential container (Container Z) Echozone which refers to a creative space containing echoes between Container X and Container Y. The term “Echo” of “Echozone” refers to a dialogue between two containers.

How to use the ECHO Way to understand the present story? See the diagram below.

  • PCL: The Path of Creative Life
  • LHC: The Life — History Complex
  • AAS: The Anticipatory Activity System (AAS) Framework
  • CLC: The Creative Life Curation Framework

What’s the difference between the above model and the original WXMY diagram?

In the original WXMY diagram, Container Z is potential while Container X and Container Y are actual. The object is using Container Z as a creative space.

For the present case, Container Z is actual while Container Y is potential.

  • Container X: Reference Space is actual
  • Container Z: Problem Space is actual
  • Contaienr Y: Solution Space is potential

How does Reference Space work? It offers the aspect of Form for Solution Space.

How does Problem Space work? It offers the aspect of Content for Solution Space.

How does Solution Space work? It curates Form and Content together.

How did I work with Reference Space and Solution Space?

The problem space was born on Oct 20, 2022. In fact, Solution Space was born before Problem Space. Before working on this theoretical curation project, I was learning Lui’s approach by playing with the semiotic system diagram.

I used a technique called “Deep Analogy” to transfer a Form from Reference Space to Solution Space. The notion of “Deep Analogy” is inspired by Arthur L. Stinchcombe who is a leading practitioner of methodology in sociology and related disciplines. The following quote is found in a note about his 1978 book Theoretical Methods in Social History.

But if general concepts consist in the analogies between elements and if they are deeper if the analogies are deeper, then the basic investigatory task of concept formation is the deepening of analogies.

Far from it being the case that the most powerful general theorists ignore details, the precise opposite is true. Social theory without attention to detail is wind; the classes it invents are vacuous, and nothing interesting follows from the fact that A and B belong to the class; “theoretical” research appears as a species of wordy scholasticism, arranging conceptual angels in sixteen fold ranks on the head of a purely conceptual pin.

But if conceptual profundity depends on the deep building of analogies from one case to another, we are likely to find good theory in exactly the opposite place from where we have been taught to expect it. For it is likely to be those scholars who attempt to give a causal interpretation of a particular case who will be led to penetrate deeper analogies between cases.

While Arthur L. Stinchcombe uses the concept of “Deep Analogy” for theoretical innovation in the field of social sciences, I use the notion of “Deep Analogy” as a technique for turning potential knowledge into actual knowledge.

In other words, while Arthur L. Stinchcombe focuses on public knowledge, I pay attention to developing tacit knowledge from the perspective of individuals. In this manner, I used Lui’s approach as a reference frame for the theoretical curation project.

I have to emphasize that I am talking about a theoretical curation project which can be seen as a problem-solving project. However, my explanation is only about this particular case.

Some thinkers reject Reference Space or Frames for problem-solving projects. This issue is about methods and methodology. It all depends on your situation.

The notion of “Reference Space” and the technique of “Deep Analogy” are really useful for problem-solving projects because we can perceive existing knowledge as our reference frames.

If you have a car, you don’t have to reinvent the wheels. Lui’s theoretical sociology is a Formula One car.

You can find the whole story in Slow Cognition: Three Paths of Creative Life and A Semiotic System.

The Speculative Space

In the past several days, I discussed the notion of “Speculative Thinking” with some friends.

What is Speculative Space?

I use the term to refer to a cognitive container that contains the activity of Speculative Thinking.

What is Speculative Thinking?

According to some academic scholars, “Speculative thinking refers to thinking about past or future possibilities; it includes counterfactual thinking, prefactual thinking, and other types.”

In daily life, people often consider how things could have been different in the past and might be different in the future. Imagine, for example, the following scenario: you rush to the train station, only to discover that your train departed 5 min ago. You may think about how things could have gone differently, such as “If I hadn’t gotten caught in that traffic jam, I would have arrived at the train station on time.” You may also think about how to ensure a different outcome in the future: “If I leave home earlier next time, I’ll arrive at the train station on time.” Imagining how events could have been different is called counterfactual thinking (e.g., Kahneman and Tversky, 1981; Roese, 1997; Byrne, 2002).

Kahneman and Tversky (1981) proposed this concept in a paper on heuristic simulation. They described heuristic simulation as a conscious reactivation of past behavior stored in memory. Imagining how things might or will differ in the future represents prefactual thinking (e.g., Schacter et al., 2007; Epstude et al., 2016). Counterfactual and prefactual thinking are two types of speculative thinking; they involve consideration of past or future possibilities, respectively.

Source: A Review of Functions of Speculative Thinking (Lun Huang, Yibo Xie, and Xiaolin Chen, 2021)

The conversation inspired me to add “Speculative Space” to expand the original three-space model.

The Five-space Model

Inspired by the notion of Speculative Thinking, I added two new spaces to the original three-space model.

I also renamed two old spaces.

  • Experience Space: It refers to the facts of the Past.
  • Challenge Space: It refers to the problems in the Present
  • Response Space: It refers to the solutions for the Future
  • Reference Space: It refers to reliable knowledge for thinking
  • Speculative Space: It refers to imaginative thinking such as Counterfactual Thinking about the Past and Prefactual Thinking about the Future.

The new model is called Strategic Curation Model.

What does Strategic Curation mean?

It refers to using a specific strategy to curate pieces of experience, knowledge, and resources into a meaningful whole for a better future.

Creative Life Curation: Turning Pieces into a Meaningful Whole

The Strategic Curation Model is part of the Creative Life Curation project.

From the perspective of Curativity Theory, Creative Life Curation is a specific strategy for Creative Knowledge Workers’ Life Development.

You can find more details about Creative Life Curation in the following articles:

The diagram below is a simple example of the Strategic Curation model.

All pieces from the following three spaces should be curated into a meaningful whole in the Response space.

  • Challenge Space
  • Reference Space
  • Speculative Space

Some people don’t rely on Reference Space or their Reference Spaces don’t contain useful knowledge for reference. Some people don’t rely on Speculative Space and only use Reference Space.

Some people can’t do a great job of curating these pieces into a meaningful whole.

Challenge Space

In the original three-space model, I used “Problem” to name a space. Now I use “Challenge” to rename it.

What’s the difference between “Problem Space” and “Challenge Space”? Problem Space is inspired by the field of design thinking and it is only a sub-category of Challenge Space.

The notion of “Challenge Space” is inspired by the Life Curation framework I made in 2019.

The original 2019 Life Curation framework is an application of the early version of the Ecological Practice approach. See the diagram below.

In order to apply the above model to discuss Life Development or Career Development, I translated the above theoretical concepts into operational concepts:

  • Container > Social Container
  • Forces > Challenges
  • Acts > Responses
  • Enter > Resources
  • Exit > Results
  • Events > Social Events
  • Information > Information
  • Affordances > Opportunities
  • Actor > Actor

The new framework has four modules:

  • Double R Analysis: the “Resources — Results” Analysis
  • Social Event Analysis: the “Challenge — Response” Analysis
  • Social Attachance Analysis: the “Exit—Exit” Analysis
  • Opportunity Analysis: the “Information — Opportunities — Action” Analysis

I used normal words such as “Resources”, “Results”, “Challenge”, “Responses”, and “Opportunities” as operational concepts. However, I also offered some new perspectives for understanding these words in order to make more creative spaces for life development.

The most important value of the Ecological Practice approach is its perspective indicates the ecological meaning of objects and environments. It is very useful for rethinking Resources and Opportunities.

One part of the Life Curation framework is the “Challenge — Response” module. By curating some theories, I identified three types of challenges. See the diagram below.

  • Problems” refer to “Existing Challenges

The Existing Challenges are about keeping life balanced. I adopted Ellen Skinner and Kathleen Edge’s motivational model of Context, Self, Action, and Outcomes (2002) as a resource. I defined the Positive Existing Challenges as the actions which respond to aggressive tasks while the Negative Existing Challenges as the actions which respond to defensive tasks. The Positive Existing Challenges refer to Engagement which is a concept of Skinner and Edge’s model. The Negative Existing Challenges refer to Coping.

The concept of Incongruity is the core of an action theoretical approach that was developed by Matthias Rauterberg in 1999. According to Rauterberg, the difference between the complexity of the mental model (MC) and the complexity of the external context (EC) is called incongruity: IC = EC -MC. There are two types of incongruity: Positive Incongruity and Negative Incongruity. For Rauterberg, only positive incongruity leads to learning.

Based on the approach, I defined two types of Learning Challenges. The Positive Challenges refer to actions that respond to positive incongruity (understanding the complexity of the situation) while the Negative Challenges refer to actions that respond to negative incongruity (transforming the complexity of ability). Based on my own experience, I thought the negative incongruity could lead to learning too. However, it refers to transforming the complexity of ability. For example, an expert faces a negative incongruity if the complexity of a situation is lower than the complexity of his mental model. However, if he wants to teach others how to cope with the same type of situation, he needs to learn communicative skills in order to reduce the complexity of the ability for others to learn. My suggestion expanded Rauterberg’s model from an individual perspective to an interpersonal perspective.

The Possible challenges are inspired by Hazel Rose Markus’ Possible Selves Theory (1986). The Positive Possible Challenges refer to actions responding to positive selves (like-to-be selves). The Negative Possible Challenges refer to actions responding to negative selves (like-to-avoid selves).

Now, let’s apply this framework to my decisions in 2018. You can find more details in D as Diagramming: Challenge as Opportunity. In 2018, I made a plan of building a community of inquiry about epistemic development. However, I didn’t act to build such a community but accepted another challenge later.

First, let’s have look at the two options:

  1. Building a community of inquiry about Epistemic Development
  2. Keep on the journey of personal intellectual discovery

Both the above two options are not Negative Existing Challenges because they are not things given to me by others. They are not Positive Existing Challenges too because they are not related to my daily life work.

Both options are Positive and Possible Challenges because they refer to like-to-be selves. However, I chose one possible self from these two options. I rejected challenge 1 because I had many years of experience in community building. This experience refers to one of my Past Selves. I accepted challenge 2 because I wanted to be an expert in theory-based reflection. This motivation refers to one of my Possible Selves.

Second, let’s review the process of writing the book Curativity:

  1. Apply Activity Theory to general curation practice.
  2. Develop an ecological approach and apply it to general curation practice.

Both challenges are Learning Challenges. For this case, the external context refers to general curation practice while the mental model refers to my understanding of theoretical approaches. There is no incongruity for Challenge 1 because I knew both sides. That was the reason that I thought Challenge 1 was not enough for me.

Challenge 2 is a Positive Learning Challenge because there was a positive incongruity. I didn’t have a clear mental model of the ecological approach. Thus, the complexity of the mental model is lower than the complexity of the external context. This led to learning.

Also, both challenges can be considered Positive and Possible Challenges. Challenge 1 could lead to the developmental direction of becoming an expert in Activity Theory while challenge 2 refers to the direction of the ecological approach. Since Activity Theory is an established theoretical tradition, I chose the ecological approach because there is no established framework and that meant a creative space. This is a radical exploratory strategy.

Moving between Experience Space and Speculative Space

Now we can use the Five-space model to discuss some cases of life curation. On June 10, 2022, I wrote an article titled Life Strategy: The “Possible Journey”.

The article introduces a technique for designing a Developmental Project: “Possible Journey”.

The “Possible Journey” technique is a great example of moving between Experience Space and Speculative Space. See the diagram below.

The “Possible Journey” technique means curating real events into imagined journeys.

There are several related terms to the technique:

  • Real Events
  • Actual Journeys
  • Possible Journeys / Imagined Journeys

Real Events refer to things that happen in our life while Actual Journeys refer to planned activities that contain several actions as real events. Both Real Events and Actual Journeys are located in Experience Space.

For example, I wrote four articles that are part of different projects before Dec 22, 2021. Thus, real events and actual journeys don’t refer to one journey, but several journeys.

On Dec 22, 2021, I found an idea to curate these four articles together for presenting a new theme about diagramming for my book Diagram Blending: Building Diagram Networks (Table of Contents).

The above diagram is the idea for curating the possible journey. The left side of the diagram displays a diagram about the “self — other” relationship that is my original inspiration. The right side lists four articles and four themes.

Inspired by the four types of “self — other” relationships, I selected four articles and considered them as four stories of a journey. Each story has a theme. Together, they form a meaningful whole that describes a possible journey from a single diagram to diagram networks.

The theme of my book Diagram Blending: Building Diagram Networks is more than one diagram. So these four stories are perfect for representing this theme.

Where is the Possible Journey?

It is located in the Speculative Space because it’s not an actual journey.

Where did my original inspiration come from?

My original inspiration, the four types of “self-other” relationships, is located in the Reference Space.

There is also a strategic curation technique behind this example: Deep Analogy. You can find more details in the original article: Life Strategy: The “Possible Journey”.

The Dynamics of Strategic Curation

How to understand the complexity of Strategic Curation?

Now we can use the Five-space model to map the dynamics of Strategic Curation. See the diagram below.

There are 14 types of possible moves between five spaces!

This is complicated! However, it’s not complex and chaotic!



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Oliver Ding

Founder of CALL(Creative Action Learning Lab), information architect, knowledge curator.