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Thematic Space: A “Strategy-as-Curation”Weekend

One Theme One Weekend…A new Mandala diagram about Life Strategy for Indie Creators…A temporal slice of a thematic space.

Photo by petr sidorov on Unsplash

This article is part of the Slow Cognition project and its focus is Thematic Space and Developing Tacit Knowledge. I have introduced the concept of Thematic Space and discussed related ideas in the following articles:

The last article was inspired by a 91-minute talk with a friend of mine on Jan 18, 2022. He is a data scientist, a programmer and a mathematical thinker. He recently moved to the direction of innovative mathematical thinking. This is a big decision for him. He wanted to know more about the journey of independent research and the topic of epistemic development in general. So, he called me for this talk.

I briefly introduced my journey of knowledge curation in 2021. He asked several deep questions about creative decisions behind the journey. However, we didn’t have enough time to talk about Life Strategy for Indie Creators.

In recent weeks, I have been discussing project reviews, career reflections, and life discovery with several friends. I also shared some insights with diagrams in my articles. For example:

and this one:

This is a typical phenomenon of Social Clock. At the end of a year, people tend to review their annual work and life. At the beginning of a year, people tend to plan work and life for a new year. Also, it is great for people to have deep talks about review, reflection, strategy, and related topics during the holiday season.

I don’t follow this Social Clock, I tend to do annual reflection around my birthday, during October to November. For example, CALL’s Annual Review (2019–2020) was published on Oct 1, 2021. CALL: Annual Review (2020–2021) was published on Oct 31, 2021. Also, I do reflection anytime because reflection is one of my research methods. I often reflected on my daily experience and wrote articles. I also reflected on the development of an idea about a project. I even wrote a whole book to reflect on my creative process of writing three books.

We had the talk on Tuesday (Jan 18). The next few days I was busy launching my toolkits. On Friday (Jan 21), I edited a 57-page document titled Strategy-as-Curation and sent it to my friend. The document started with the Anticipatory Activity System framework and my rough plan about expanding the framework to the Strategy-as-Curation project. However, the plan only takes three pages. The rest of the document collects my emails with other friends and my diagrams.

Then, two Knowledge Sparks emerged. I realized that I should officially announce my “Mandala” thematic space. This led to a series of creative moments last weekend.

Today, I’d like to share my Sparks about the “Mandala” thematic space with you. Since these ideas are produced in one weekend, I’d like to use it as an example of Temporal Slicing of a Thematic Space.

In order to echo the 57-page document, I name this weekend “the Strategy-as-Curation Weekend”.

Part One: Background

Part one provides some information about the “Mandala” thematic space.

1. Two Thematic Spaces: “Life” v.s. “Mandala”

In fact, I reflected on two thematic spaces: the “Life” thematic space and the “Mandala” thematic space.

The “Life” thematic space is a huge container for me. In the Theory field of the thematic space, I did something about it. For example:

The “Life Theory” document is both a theoretical plan and a toolkit. As a theoretical play, it describes the position and the direction of expanding the Ecological Practice approach to a social theory. As a toolkit, it curates six frameworks together. It is the beta version of the Ecological Practice approach.

However, what I want to deal with is not theory development for this movement. I want to have a good talk with my friend about life strategy for indie creators. He expects some useful practical principles, techniques, inspirations, solutions, instruments, etc.

I reviewed the Strategy-as-Curation document and I realized that I need a new Mandala which could present core theoretical concepts of the Ecological Practice approach with several operational heuristics together. Then, I can develop a new toolkit with the diagram.

Also, I realized that it is possible to use a new method to deal with the “Life” issue. From the perspective of Curativity Theory, I need to find two containers in order to respond to this challenge. First, I found the series of Mandala diagrams to be pretty good as abstract containers because each Mandala diagram represents a mindset from a professional perspective. Second, I found the metaphor of Mind as Play could lead to a concrete container. I could design a Psychodrama-like participatory play called the Mandala Club. The play invites several professionals to join the event and each person shares his own version of the Mandala diagram. Then, all participants connect these Mandala diagrams with the primary theme of Life Strategy and related themes. Finally, each participant discovers pairs of themes for their own life strategy and makes a personal mandala diagram.

The rest of the article will unpack these ideas.

2. The Mandala Diagram Network

The D as Diagramming project (Phase 1) produced various diagrams and frameworks which covers many topics. There are many possible ways to find connections between these diagrams. Though I used Meta-diagrams as connectors for building diagram networks, I also used Personas to discover diagram networks.

The Mandala Diagram Network was developed with the Personas approach. Each time, I select a professional persona and develop a Mandala diagram to represent the persona’s mental model in general.

All Mandala diagrams are based on the Hubhood meta-diagram. I use one twitter thread to publish these Mandala diagrams.

  • Dec 21, 2021 — The Founder’s Mandala
  • Dec 23, 2021 — The Creator’s Mandala
  • Dec 24, 2021 — The Curator’s Mandala
  • Jan 1, 2022 — The Strategist’s Mandala
  • Jan 3, 2022 — The Designer’s Mandala
  • Jan 4, 2022 — Sailor’s Mandala
  • Jan 24, 2022 — Shaman’s Mandala

Since all Mandala diagrams are based on the Hubhood meta-diagram, they share the same structure. I’d like to introduce the newest member of the family with some details of developing a Mandala diagram.

Part Two: The Shaman’s Mandala

As mentioned above, I need a new Mandala which could present core theoretical concepts of the Ecological Practice approach with several operational heuristics together. Then, I can develop a new toolkit with the diagram.

The diagram below is the Hubhood meta-diagram which was born on Feb 6, 2021 when I was re-thinking on the Platform-for-Development (P4D) framework (v1.0) with the concept of Supportance. You can find more details from here and here.

The Hubhood meta-diagram was formed by four thematic spaces and four connected hubs. There are many ways to develop a Mandala diagram from the Hubhood meta-diagram. There are five challenges during the developing process:

  • Challenge 1: Identify Four Thematic Spaces for a Particular Task
  • Challenge 2: Arrange these Four Thematic Spaces with a particular logic
  • Challenge 3: Identify Four Connected Hubs between Four Thematic Spaces
  • Challenge 4: Identify a pair of themes for each connected hub
  • Challenge 5: Name the new Mandala diagram which is the final product

I don’t want to claim that these are four steps because the sequential order doesn’t matter. The value of the Hubhood meta-diagram is representing a holistic view of a particular thing. That’s the reason I named the final product Mandala diagram.

3. The Task

The Shaman’s Mandala aims to develop a new Mandala diagram for representing concepts and tools of the Ecological Practice Approach.

4. Four Thematic Spaces

I select four core theoretical concepts of the Ecological Practice Approach as Four Thematic Spaces.

  • Affordance
  • Attachance
  • Supportance
  • Curativity

You can find more details about these concepts from an old article: The Development of Ecological Practice Approach.

For life strategy and related issues, these four theoretical concepts have some heuristic orientations for thinking.

  • Affordance: Material Adaptability
  • Supportance: Social Adaptability
  • Attachance: Sense of Boundaryless
  • Curativity: Sense of Wholeness

These heuristic orientations refer to benefits of learning these concepts and mastering related skills.

Material Adaptability refers to a person’s competence of actualization of affordance and material engagement while Social Adaptability refers to a person’s competence of actualization of supportances and human engagement. There is a gap between potential possibilities, a person has to develop his skills and capabilities in order to take Affordances and Supportances.

Attachance leads to Sense of Boundaryless because actions of Attaching and Detaching reduces the boundary’s impact to a person. Curativity leads to Sense of Wholeness because actions of turning pieces into a meaningful whole increases the skill of making sense of wholeness.

I think these four benefits are important for life strategy and discovery.

5. Discover A Spatial Logic

How to place the above four concepts on the Hubhood meta-diagram? There are some possible spatial logics. We can make a 2x2 matrix. For example, The Sailor’s Mandala was developed with a 2x2 matrix.

The Sailor’s Mandala was designed with the following two dimensions:

  • Individual Psychological Intervention
  • Social Practice Acceleration

Based on the above two dimensions, I identified four thematic spaces:

  • Psychological: Cognition and Emotion
  • Social Practice: Opportunity and Resource

However, the 2x2 matrix is not the only way to develop a Mandala diagram. For example, I use the 3-layer structure to develop the Shaman’s Mandala. See the diagram below.

The 3-layer structure behind the Shaman’s Mandala is “Lifemove — Lifeway — Lifeform” which is the hierarchical logic of the Ecological Practice Approach.

In fact, I found this 3-layer echoes my other models: The Life-as-Activity Framework uses “Moment — Project — Theme” hierarchical structure, The Context of Developing Tacit Knowledge uses “Flow — Story — Model” hierarchical structure.

For the Ecological Practice Approach, the term Lifemove refers to the layer of immediate embodied experience. The related concept is Affordance which means potential action possibilities offered by natural/physical/technical environments. I also use terms such as Moment and Flow to describe this layer.

The term Lifeway refers to the layer of human actions which means a layer of “do something” which is higher than the immediate embodied experience. The concept of Attachance emphasizes the meaning and value of Attaching acts and Detaching acts while the concept of Supportance focuses on potential action possibilities offered by social environments. I also use terms such as Project and Story to describe this layer.

The term Lifeform refers to the layer of cultural norms such as rules, law, conventions, etc. The original meaning of the concept of Curativity refers to turning pieces into a meaningful whole. For present discussion, it refers to the organizational movement between individual things and collective groups. I also use terms such as Theme and Model to describe this layer.

Finally, the Ecological Practice Approach uses the concept of “Themes of Practice” to describe the transformation between individual life themes and collective cultural themes. I claim that this concept is the primary theme of Life Strategy for Indie Creators. That means a creative person aims to create innovative life themes which grow into collective cultural themes.

Actually, the “Lifemove — Lifeway — Lifeform” hierarchical structure was defined in the “Life Theory” document in Feb 2020. However, I discovered the concept of “Supportance” in Oct 2020 and developed the Lifesystem framework which only considers the pair of concept “Affordance — Supportance” in Dec 2020.

6. Four Connected Hubs

Based on the above 3-layer structure, I identified the following four connected hubs:

  • Opportunity: Affordance (Attachance)
  • Situation: Supportance (Affordance)
  • Enterprise: Curativity(Attachance)
  • Relevance: Curativity(Supportance)

Both Affordance and Attachance refer to ecological meanings and values. For practical purposes, I use the term “Opportunity” to refer to these meanings and values. Also, I have developed a heuristics called the Opportunity Formula.

While Affordance refers to natural/physical/technical environments, Supportance refers to social environments. Both are potential action possibilities of Situations. If we put these two together, we can find a trick. Sometimes, Taking Supportances determines Taking Affordances. This trick led me to develop the Lifesystem framework.

In order to discuss a creative person’s work and life, I use the evolving systems approach to the study of creative work (Howard E. Gruber, 1974,1989) as a theoretical resource for discussing creators’ Network of Enterprise. The approach uses “task — project — enterprise — network of enterprise” to understand creators’ work. For the Ecological Practice Approach, Attachance needs Curativity to make a balance. These two concepts are perfect for discussing Network of Enterprise. I also found the Defining Zone is really relevant to the Enterprise connected hub.

The Supportance — Curativity corner is about the Self — Other relationship. I used the term Relevance for the connected hub. A related heuristics is Typology of Relevance.

7. Pairs of Themes

Each connected hub can be described with a pair of theme which guides more deep discovery.

I discovered the following pairs of themes for four connected hubs:

  • Opportunity: Potential v.s. Potential
  • Situation: Control v.s. Support
  • Relevance: Self v.s. Other
  • Enterprise: Explore v.s. Exploit

I have used the term Opportunity many times. I even developed an “Opportunity” thematic space for my Personal Epistemological Frameworks.I defined the “Opportunity” thematic space as a super container to Environments, Situations, Affordances, Opportunity, Possible Actions, Possible Practices together. I also defined the concept “Opportunity” as “Possible Actions” which could be defined with a pair of themes:

Possible Actions can be understood with two inseparable aspects:

a) Potentials which are offers by the environment or the situation, and

b) Capabilities, a skill, an ability, or knowledge that makes a person able to do a particular action.

The Potentials — Capabilities coupling echoes the Environment — Organisms coupling.

For life strategy and discovery, the pair of theme “Potential — Capability” is pretty good for the “Opportunity” connected hub.

I use the pair of themes “Control — Support” for the Situation connected hub. This pair of themes was inspired by Self-Determination Theory (SDT) which is a general psychological theory of human behavior and personality development. I have adopted SDT for the Life-as-Activity framework and the Life-to-be-Owned framework. Since the Ecological Practice Approach doesn’t talk about motivation and personality development, I think it’s perfect to adopt SDT for the diagram.

The Relevance refers to the “Self — Other” relationships. I have discussed it within the iART Framework which became the center of Anticipatory Activity System. The core of iART Framework is a three perspectives: Intrapersonal analysis, Interpersonal analysis, Transactional analysis. Later, I connected this framework with Relevance theories and developed a Typology of Relevance which expanded three perspectives to four types of relevances. The fourth one is Collective Relevance.

The Enterprise is similar to Activity. I tend to use “End — Means” and “Object — Objective” to discuss Activity. However, I considered the Explore — Exploit Cycle is the primary issue for creators. The Explore — Exploit issue is a classic topic of strategic management and organizational learning. I used the iART Framework/Anticipatory Activity System to understand this issue. In particular, I used the Defining Zone model for deep discussion. The model considers Anticipation, Performance, Present, and Future. It led to the Explore — Exploit Cycle which means creators have to manage their Explore — Exploit cycle in order to achieve the balance between Resources and Results. The logic is very simple: Exploit leads to Results which leads to Rewards from supportive environments. The Rewards turns into Resources for supporting Explore and Exploit. The key is Cycle.

8. The Primary Theme

I selected the concept of “Themes of Practice” for the primary theme of the diagram.

In 2019, I developed the idea “Themes of Practice” in order to discuss the “meaning” of the meaningful whole for my book Curativity: The Ecological Approach to Curatorial Practice. I realized the notion of “Theme” is a great tool for curating experience and actions.

Anthropologist Morris Opler (1945) developed a theoretical “themes” for studying culture. Career counseling therapists and psychologists also developed a theoretical concept called “life theme.” If we put culture themes and life themes together, we see a “great debate” of social science: “individual — collective.”

In 2021, I expanded the concept of “Themes of Practice” into a book-in-draft. I also developed a framework and canvas as heuristic tools. The above diagram is the Themes of Practice framework. For creators, this framework can be used as a niche analysis tool. You can choose a theme and select a niche direction for your creative projects.

Part Three: The Mandala Club

As mentioned above, I also realized that it is possible to use a new method to deal with the “Life” issue.

From the perspective of Curativity Theory, I need to find two containers in order to respond to this challenge.

First, I found the series of Mandala diagrams to be pretty good as abstract containers because each Mandala diagram represents a mindset from a professional perspective.

Second, I found the metaphor of Mind as Play could lead to a concrete container. I could design a Psychodrama-like Participatory Play called the Mandala Club. The play invites several professionals to join the event and each person shares his own version of the Mandala diagram.

Then, all participants connect these Mandala diagrams with the primary theme “Life Strategy” and related themes. Finally, each participant discovers pairs of themes for their own life strategy and makes a personal mandala diagram.

9. A Psychodrama-like Participatory Play

Now we have seven Mandala diagrams which represent seven perspectives from seven personas.

  • Dec 21, 2021 — The Founder’s Mandala
  • Dec 23, 2021 — The Creator’s Mandala
  • Dec 24, 2021 — The Curator’s Mandala
  • Jan 1, 2022 — The Strategist’s Mandala
  • Jan 3, 2022 — The Designer’s Mandala
  • Jan 4, 2022 — The Sailor’s Mandala
  • Jan 24, 2022 — The Shaman’s Mandala

In The Dynamics of Tacit Knowledge, I mentioned a technique for turning potential knowledge into actual knowledge: Deep Analogy. The most important key of deep analogy is the mapping between two containers. For present discussion, one is a set of Mandala diagrams, and the other one is a Psychodrama-like Participatory Play.

The shared key between two containers is Personas. The above seven Mandala diagrams were developed by Personas. I selected a persona first, then developed a Mandala diagram for representing the persona’s mental model. A Psychodrama-like Participatory Play requires several actors. Each actor represents a persona.

This insight also echoes the issues of “Possible Journey”. I have discussed the issue in The Dynamics of Tacit Knowledge:

For my case, I use the term “possible journey” to discuss the “narrative journey” because the four original stories are not part of a real journey. A narrative journey gives us freedom to curate real events into imagined journeys which are different to real journeys in our life.

A possible journey needs a reasonable structure to curate several intermediate purposes into a new meaningful whole. I adopted the structure from the four graphics and I found it matched the four stories I selected.

For present discussion, the above seven Mandala diagrams were designed for different purposes or inspired by different triggers. Now, I curate these real events into an imagined journey.

10. Pairs of Themes

Finally, I’d like to emphasize the notion of “Pairs of Themes” which is part of my book “Themes of Practice” and the Theme U meta-diagram.

Originally, I used “Pairs of Opposite Themes” for the ECHO Way (2.0) which is A practical framework for Knowledge Curation and Boundary Innovation.

The most important step of the ECHO way is the Theme U mapping process. You are required to discover several Pairs of Opposite Themes and place three of them on the Theme U.

This process is a challenge because it guides you to understand thematic relationships deeply. You also need to think about it with Theme U which is a spatial representation framework with three layers and two sides. You should pick a logic method to make sense of these spatial structures and place six themes on the U shape.

I used the notion of “Pairs of Opposite Themes” to develop a framework for personal innovation. If we want to explore personal innovation, the great starting point is Pairs of Opposite Themes because they could lead to Structural Tensions such as boundary, distance, difference, heterogeneity, contradiction, and complementation. If we can turn one or more structural tensions into creative opportunities, then we could find the way of personal innovation. You can find more details from an old article: Personal Innovation as Career-fit: Discover Pairs of Opposite Themes of career experience and beyond.

For the Mandala Club, I moved to Pairs of Themes from professional mental models.

Why?

Because there are many tools for discussing Pairs of Themes from professional fields. These are useful knowledge for Life Strategy and Discovery.

The “Life” issue is a wicked problem. We don’t have one defining model or solution for each person’s “life” issue. The Mandala Club adopts the Co-Curation method to guide people to find useful professional Pairs of Themes and related heuristic tools for their own life situation.

The Co-Curation method echoes Integrative Psychotherapy which integrates elements from different schools of psychotherapy in order to service a particular client. The difference between Co-Curation and Integrative Psychotherapy is the Co-Curation method has two steps:

  • Professionals: The Objective Knowledge Curation
  • Participants: The Objective — Subjective Curation

11. A list of Pairs of Themes

Finally, I’d like to offer a list of Pairs of themes for readers. You only have to pay attention to the bold text. Other parts are my personal notes. These pairs of themes are discovered from my Mandala diagrams and my other articles. The Hint offers a clue for thinking about a pair of themes from my perspective. I can’t offer more details for each hint in this article.

If you want to develop your tacit knowledge about life strategy and discovery. You can follow this format to curate your own list of pairs of themes.

Part Four: The Weekend

On July 21, 2020, I published an article titled Frame Analysis in Context which records my reading experience within three days.

Friday (July 10, 2020)
Received the copy of Frame Analysis in the evening.
Read it after dinner.
Found William James and Alfred Schutz’s articles and took pictures.

Saturday (July 11, 2020)
Read Frame Analysis in the morning.
Reed Frame Analysis in the afternoon.
…(afternoon: my wife made a cup of milky tea)…
Read Framing Social Interaction on Mac computer at night.
Found more related books and took pictures.

Sunday (July 12, 2020)
Read Frame Analysis in the morning.
Took pictures of my reading space.
Found a related book after lunch.
Started writing this article in the afternoon.
… (afternoon: making a pizza with kids)…
Watched three related videos on YouTube at night.

I’d like to offer more details about the “Strategy-as-Curatin” Weekend.

12. Friday (Jan 21, 2022)

On Friday (Jan 21), I edited a 57-page document titled Strategy-as-Curation and sent it to my friend. The document started with the Anticipatory Activity System framework and my rough plan about expanding the framework to the Strategy-as-Curation project. However, the plan only takes three pages. The rest of the document collects my emails with other friends and my diagrams.

13. Saturday (Jan 22, 2022)

At around 3:00 p.m., I played basketball with kids. Then, kids moved to bicycling. I watched them and thought about the idea of a Psychodrama-like Participatory Play.

Though I have designed six Mandala diagrams, I thought that I needed a new one about Aristotle’s Four Causes for Life Strategy and Discovery.

14. Sunday (Jan 23, 2022)

At around 3:00 p.m., I started working on the Mandala diagram project. I printed the above six Mandala diagrams and my other frameworks.

At around 3:30 p.m., I drove my son to a classmate’s home for their learning project. I sat in my car and continuously worked on the project. I read a book which mentions Aristotle’s Four Causes, but I found that it doesn’t offer details. So I searched online and read an article on Medium.

However, I did not work on designing a new Mandala diagram about Aristotle’s Four Causes.

I changed my mind. I made the draft of the Shaman’s Mandala with two A4 sheets and one pencil.

What a creative weekend!

You are most welcome to connect via the following social platforms:

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/oliverding
Twitter:
https://twitter.com/oliverding
Polywork: https://www.polywork.com/oliverding
Boardle: https://www.boardle.io/users/oliver-ding

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