Curativity Center
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Curativity Center

Meet with Oliver Ding: 1 Mission, 4 Theories, and 12 Possible Books

Hello, Friends!

Some readers asked me for a list of my books. So this article offers a short introduction to my books. I was born in Jianyang which is a small town in China. My two sons were born in Houston which is a large city in America. We are a born global family.

According to Wikipedia, my hometown Jianyang was a significant hub for the development of culture in China, “From the 11th to the 17th century, commercial publishers established in the area used local bamboo for paper manufacturing and made the area one of the three largest book-producing areas in China in the Song (960–1279) and Yuan (1271–1368) dynasties. The area continued to be an important printing center into the Ming epoch (1368–1644).”

One of my knowledge heroes is Chu Hsi who was a philosopher of the Song Dynasty who taught at Kaoting College in Jianyang.

Initially, my passion for intellectual creation and cultural development is triggered by the cultural-historical development of my hometown. Later, I was encouraged by many friends around me over the past 20 years. We worked on building communities of practices such as brand marketing professional practice and open education and learning. We worked on promoting free culture, sharism, and social innovation by building non-profit communities such as OOPS and TEDtoChina.

TEDtoChina Team Meetup, Shanghai, April 13, 2011 (Taken by Lawrence Wang)

I have over twenty years of work experience which can be divided into three stages: the creative stage, strategic stage, and innovative stage. At the creative stage, I worked for the advertising and media industry as a creative copywriter and designer. At the strategic state, I worked for pre-IPO stage enterprises as a business strategist and fundraising consultant. At the innovative stage, I worked on making brand new digital tools and platforms as a researcher and designer.

Before 2014, I spent most of my spare time on digital nonprofit communities as a digital activist. From 2014 to 2015, I transformed my focus from nonprofit activities to theoretical learning. Since then, I have been spending most of my spare time learning ecological psychology, creativity research, and other related subjects.

2014–2020: Ecological Psychology and Creativity Research
2014–2018: Action Science, Activity Theory and Cognitive Science
2018–2019: Practice Theory, HCI, Strategy and Work
2020: Social Theory, Social Media, Information Systems and Platform

As a serial creator and a lifelong thinker, I am passionate about intellectual development and life reflection. Initially, I was influenced by Chris Argyris’ Action Science and Donald Schön’s Theory in Practice and The Reflective Practitioner.

I wrote my first learning autobiography in 2015 and was attracted to biographical studies. In 2016, I developed a framework called Career Landscape which is inspired by Activity Theory, Communities of Practice, and other ideas. I also developed a series of tools such as Learning Autobiography Guide, Learning & Reflective Cards, Learning & Reflective Canvas, Learning & Reflective Monthly Report Template, etc.

However, these methods and tools were not adopted by others. So, I stopped making such tools and focused on my own journey of intellectual discovery. At the end of 2017, I wrote a series of articles on the relationship between Knowledge and Personal Development and developed a framework called Dynamic System of Personal Knowing.

In June 2018, I was thinking about a typical question of middle crisis:

What should I do with the rest of my life?

I focused on the side project about intellectual development and life reflection. It was clear that this is one of my life enterprises because I had worked on it for several years without any pay. If a person can do a thing for many years without any pay, the thing definitely is his passion.

One Mission

After learning ecological psychology for five years, I wrote a book titled Curativity in Sept 2018 and March 2019. During the process of writing, I developed a new theoretical approach called the Ecological Practice Approach which aims to build an Affordance-based theory of action and apply ideas of ecological psychology for analyzing various social practices.

After March 2019, I continuously worked on revising Curativity and developed the Ecological Practice Approach as a new project. Two months ago, I wrote another book titled After Affordance in which I proposed several new theoretical ideas for expanding ecological psychology to the modern digital environment.

In 2020, I decided to apply Curativity Theory to Knowledge Building and I started working on the Knowledge Curation project which led to several books later.

The mission behind the Knowledge Curation project is Connecting Theory and Practice.

The Theory-Practice Gap is an important issue in a wide range of disciplines including education, organization learning, and development, community building, academic development, enterprise R&D, professional service firms (PSFs), etc.

If we can find a good solution to close the Theory-Practice Gap, then we can improve existing social systems of knowledge production, knowledge application, and knowledge management at the individual level and the collective level.

In the past three years, I have developed a set of tools and run several sub-projects.

  • 2020: The HERO U framework | The Activity U project
  • 2021: The Model of Knowledge Curation and Canvas | The D as Diagramming project
  • 2022: The Thematic Space Canvas | The Life Discovery project

The outcome is pretty amazing. I produced various types of knowledge products such as concepts, diagrams, canvases, methods, toolkits, etc. I also wrote articles and edited books.

Four Theories

My primary theoretical interests are the following four theoretical approaches:

  • Curativity Theory
  • Ecological Psychology
  • Activity Theory
  • Anticipatory Systems Theory

Based on these theoretical resources, I developed several new knowledge frameworks such as:

  • The Knowledge Curation Framework (an application of Curativity Theory)
  • The Themes of Practice Framework (an application of Curativity Theory, also inspired by Activity Theory)
  • The Ecological Practice Approach (inspired by Ecological Psychology)
  • The Infoniche Framework (an application of the Ecological Practice Approach)
  • The Lifesystem Framework (an application of the Ecological Practice Approach, also inspired by Activity Theory)
  • The SET (Structured Engagement Theory) Framework (inspired by Activity Theory and Ecological Psychology)
  • The Anticipatory Activity System Framework (inspired by Activity Theory and Anticipatory Systems Theory)

In order to test these abstract frameworks, I also apply them to some domains such as adult development, career development, life transitions, platform innovation, tacit knowledge development, etc.

Twelve Books

From 2019 to 2022, I wrote 12 books and designed a set of meta-diagrams. These books are drafts. I call them Possible Books.

1. Curativity Theory: The Ecological Approach to General Curation Practice (2019)

2. After Affordance: The Ecological Approach to Human Action (2020)

3. Activity U: How to Think and Act Like an Activity Theorist (2020)

4. Project-oriented Activity Theory (2021)

5. Platform for Development: The Ecology of Adult Development in the 21st Century (2021)

6. The ECHO Way: Echozone and Boundary Knowledge Work (2021)

7. Themes of Practice: The Information Architecture of Social Life (2021)

8. Career Curation: Curativity Theory for Personal Innovation (2021)

9. Diagram Blending: Building Diagram Networks (2021)

10. Diagramming as Practice: An Integrated Framework for Studying Knowledge Diagrams (2021)

11. Ecological Practice Design: The Lifesystem Approach to Everyday Life Innovation (2022)

12. Knowledge Discovery: Developing Tacit Knowledge with Thematic Space Canvas (2022)

1. Curativity Theory: The Ecological Approach to General Curation Practice (2019)

I have worked in the curation field for over ten years. I was the Chief Information Architect of BagTheWeb.com which was an early tool for content curation (We launched the site in 2010). This experience inspired me to make a long-term commitment to the Curation theme. After having 10 years of various curation-related practical work experience and theory learning, I coined a term called Curativity and developed Curativity Theory which became a book.

The book Curativity: The Ecological Approach to General Curation Practice was written in Chinese from Oct 2018 to March 2019. It is a 615-page Google Doc file. You can find more details from the following links:

2. After Affordance: The Ecological Approach to Human Action (2020)

During the process of writing Curativity, I developed a new theoretical approach called the Ecological Practice Approach which aims to build an Affordance-based theory of action and apply ideas of ecological psychology for analyzing various social practices.

After March 2019, I continuously worked on revising Curativity and developing the Ecological Practice Approach as a new project. In May 2020, I wrote another book titled After Affordance: The Ecological Approach to Human Action in which I proposed several new theoretical ideas for expanding ecological psychology to the modern digital environment.

After Affordance is a 371-page file. It was written in Chinese. The primary theoretical concepts are Attachance and Infoniche. You can find more details in the following links:

3. Activity U: How to Think and Act Like an Activity Theorist (2020)

This book is a collection of my English articles about Activity Theory. You can read original articles on Medium.

You can find more details from the following links:

4. Project-oriented Activity Theory (2021)

Activity Theory or the “Cultural-historical activity theory (CHAT)” is an interdisciplinary philosophical framework for studying both individual and social aspects of human behavior. Activity Theory is an established theoretical tradition with several theoretical approaches developed by different theorists. Originally, it was inspired by the Russian/Soviet psychology of the 1920s and 1930s.

A major development of Activity Theory during the past decade is Andy Blunden’s account “An Interdisciplinary Theory of Activity”. Andy Blunden is an independent scholar in Melbourne, Australia. He works with the Independent Social Research Network and the Melbourne School of Continental Philosophy and has run a Hegel Summer School since 1998.

In order to develop the notion of “Project as a unit of Activity” as a theoretical foundation of the new interdisciplinary theory of Activity, Blunden adopts Hegel’s logic and Vygotsky’s theory about “Unit of Analysis” and “Concept” as theoretical resources. The process is documented in four books: An Interdisciplinary Theory of Activity (2010), Concepts: A Critical Approach (2012), Collaborative Projects: An Interdisciplinary Study (2014), and Hegel for Social Movements (2019).

I followed Blunden’s approach and developed some new ideas to expand the approach. The outcome is a new book titled Project-oriented Activity Theory: A 21st-Century Version of Activity Theory for Making Impact Projects and Social Movements.

I also developed a toolkit called Project Engagement. You can find more details from the following links:

5. Platform for Development: The Ecology of Adult Development in the 21st Century (2021)

On Dec 13, 2020, I published the Platform-for-Development (P4D) framework (v1.0). Later I renamed it “Developmental Project” and expanded to the v2.0 of Platform-for-Development. An outcome is a supportive approach to adult development with an ecological mindset.

The v2.0 framework adopts Project-oriented Activity Theory and the Ecological Practice approach as theoretical resources. In order to connect theory and practice, I develop several intermediate concepts and frameworks. These ideas are presented in several articles.

I also developed a toolkit in March 2021. This book is considered a sub-project of the Platform Ecology project. You can find more details from the following links:

6. The ECHO Way: Echozone and Boundary Knowledge Work (2021)

From August 2020 to March 2021, I wrote three books in English. This was an amazing experience! In April 2021, I joined an online program and shared my reflection about the HERO U framework and the above works. Eventually, I wrote a new book called THE ECHO WAY in Chinese in April 2021. It is a 312-page draft.

The above picture is the book cover of THE ECHO WAY. The subtitle of THE ECHO WAY is Echozone and Boundary Knowledge Work. The book records my reflections on connecting Theory and Practice. Unfortunately, I wrote THE ECHO WAY in Chinese because I wanted to share ideas with my Chinese friends who are participants in the online program.

You can find some details from the following links:

7. Themes of Practice: The Information Architecture of Social Life (2021)

The concept of “Themes of Practice” is a core idea of Curativity Theory. From June 2021 to August 2021, I applied the concept to study career development and developed a new framework to expand the concept. The work on Career Themes focuses on the “Practice” part of “Themes of Practice.” This experience inspired me to review the historical development of the idea of “Themes of Practice”.

In August 2021, I collected all my writings about Themes of Practice in past years and edited a Table of Content for a possible book. To my surprise, I have written over 440 pages about the idea of “Themes of Practice” in Chinese.

The possible book contains a theoretical concept, a practical framework, a method of analysis, a set of sub-concepts, and several empirical studies. You can find more details from the following links:

8. Career Curation: Curativity Theory for Personal Innovation (2021)

On July 4, 2021, I finished a 64-page thesis titled The Epistemology of Domain which offers a brand new theory about Domain. On July 5, 2021, I sent an email to a friend with my draft. At the end of the email, I used the following three keywords to summarize my three major theoretical creations.

  • Opportunity: The Ecological Practice Approach
  • Objective: Project-oriented Activity Theory
  • Outcome: The Epistemology of Domain

Later, I used the Tripartness diagram to re-organize these ideas. I also adopted the pair of concepts “Lifeway/Lifeform” to the diagram. Finally, I made a new framework for discussing career development.

This led to a new book! I added the new diagram to the Career Curation board and started writing! I have written 106 pages for the first draft in Chinese. However, I stopped the project on July 17, 2021.

You can find more details from the following links:

9. Diagram Blending: Building Diagram Networks (2021)

On Dec 16, 2021, I closed the D as Diagramming project (Phase 1) with the Diagramming as Practice framework. The project is both a research project and an experimental project.

As an experimental project, I worked on three ideas:

  • Introduced a set of Meta-diagrams I designed with real examples.
  • Focused on turning tacit knowledge into explicit knowledge with diagrams
  • In order to discover the relationship between diagrams and canvas, I turned my diagrams into the canvas as experiments.

Since the notion of Meta-diagrams is really new, I had to coin some new terms to name emergent ideas during the process. Eventually, I realized that I should edit a new book to curate these new ideas together.

In 2018, I wrote a 108-page thesis titled Diagram Explained. I developed a framework for understanding multiple layers of diagrams and wrote a list of topics about diagramming. The thesis considers two groups of ideas. The first group is “meta-diagram, diagram, and diagram system” and the second group is “diagramming as an activity of knowing, theorizing, and reflecting”.

The possible book documents my work on Meta-diagrams and related practice. You can find more details from the following links:

10. Diagramming as Practice: An Integrated Framework for Studying Knowledge Diagrams (2021)

From August 2021 to Dec 2021, I worked on the D as Diagramming project (phase 1). In order to close the project, I developed an integrated framework for studying knowledge diagrams.

I also edited a new book for this framework. While Diagram Blending focuses on the meta-diagrams and related practices, Diagramming as Practice aims to offer a curated framework for studying knowledge diagrams.

You can find more details from the following links:

11. Ecological Practice Design: The Lifesystem Approach to Everyday Life Innovation (2022)

I started developing the Ecological Practice Approach in 2019 and the Lifesystem framework was born in Oct 2020. In the past four years, I wrote several books (in drafts) about the approach.

Each year I write a book and each book establishes an important theoretical concept for the Ecological Practice approach. Curativity introduces the concept of Curativity and develops the toolkit version of the approach. After Affordance introduces the concept of Attachance and develops the germ-cell version of the approach. Platform for Development introduces the concept of Supportance.

My passion behind the approach is developing a theoretical framework in order to use it to reflect on my over 20 years of work experience in various fields such as curation, design, strategy, learning, etc.

Some readers may know Creative Design is one of my career themes. My early career was designing newspaper ads and corporate identity. Later, I moved to digital interaction design. Now, I am working on activity analysis and service design.

Though the Ecological Practice Approach and the Lifesystem framework were not developed for discussing Design, they could apply to the field of Design, especially the everyday life innovation.

The new possible book focuses on the Lifesystem Approach and expands from its core framework to more theoretical concepts and more operational frameworks. It collects my articles about the Ecological Practice Practice, the Lifesytem framework, and related frameworks.

You can find more details from the following links:

12. Knowledge Discovery: Developing Tacit Knowledge with Thematic Space Canvas (2022)

In the past four months, I worked on the Slow Cognition project that aims to explore the historical-cognitive approach and the long-term development of thoughts.

The primary project in the past four months is the Thematic Space project. Originally, I used the term “Thematic Space” to name an item for the Knowledge Curation model and canvas. Later, I developed a canvas for the concept of “Thematic Space”. This led to a series of canvases and a series of activities.

  • Knowledge Discovery Activity and Canvas
  • Concept Discovery Activity and Canvas
  • Life Discovery Activity and Canvas
  • Opportunity Discovery Activity and Canvas
  • Thematic Spirit
  • Significant Insights Analysis

In order to close the Slow Cognitive Project (phase I), I collected a set of articles and edited a Table of Contents for a new possible book.

If you find more details from the following links:

Upcoming

I am working on some projects which will produce some new possible books.

Life Discovery: The Life-as-Project Approach (Doing)

In Feb 2022, I worked on the Life Discovery Project and it led to the following things:

  • The Life-as-Project Approach
  • Life Discovery Toolkit (v1.0)
  • Life Discovery Canvas (v1.0)

On Feb 13, 2022, I published Life Discovery: The Life-as-Project Approach and suggested a strategy for developing a Project-centered approach:

Project as A Multiple Dimension Concept

This simple strategy creates a new thematic space for creative exploratory. In The Life Discovery Canvas (v1.0) — Part 1: Theoretical Background, I highlighted the following six basic principles of the Project-centered approach for Life Discovery Activity.

You can find more details from the following links:

Cultural Projection Analysis: The Project Engagement Approach (To Do)

Last year, I started an empirical research project about an adult development program which was initiated by a friend of mine. I’d like to call the program SSL which stands for Shaper & Supporter Lab. Anyway, it is just a codename.

The program was designed with three components: 1) Life Purpose Awareness, 2) Personal OKR Practice, 3) Peer Review and Feedback. My friend also adopted the Building In Public approach to sharing her goals, challenges, progress, and discussions with others on social media platforms.

I use the Project Engagement approach to guide my research about the program. The approach uses a method called “Multiple-level Project Engagement”. I reflect on the following levels:

  • The “My friend — Members” Engagement
  • The “Member — Member” Engagement
  • The “I — My friend” Engagement

This method is what I called “Cultural Projection Analysis” of Project-oriented Activity Theory.

The new possible book will focus on the Cultural Projection Analysis method. You can find more details from the following links:

I am also working on building a new website for the Platform Ecology project. You can save the following links:

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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Oliver Ding

Oliver Ding

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