One of the people that introduced me to the concept of Collective Intelligence was Pierre Levy with his wonderful book Collective Intelligence: Mankind’s Emerging World in Cyberspace. That book gave me a deep insight into the historical dimensions of cyberspace, how we came here, if you like. It’s deep and clear thinking has helped me much in developing my own understanding of how we are embedded in a larger wave of development and what is possible. But since the book was published 1997 a lot has happened, so I was happy that my friend Jascha Rohr tweeted about this much more recent presentation of his ideas as a “slide-share”.
What I like about it – and it will take much more time to digest – is that it indicates a new language that could link the software processes of cyberspace and the human collective intelligence. The slide show is quite helpful for placing recent developments in a larger perspective, to look at how collective consciousness might come about, and to in the end learn something about the language that might bridge machine-language and normal human tongues: the Information Economy Metalanguage (IEML); a part that’s truly challenging at this moment for me to understand. Some of my readers will understand this much better than I do, but hey, that’s what Collective Intelligence is all about – I do not need to understand everything 🙂
Physics has discussed fields for quite some time but the term can very well be used in the context of the noosphere, our ‘inner’ landscape, the dimension inside and between living beings. Then there is the so called ‘knowing field,’a concept to explain the remarkable phenomena that happen in family-constellations; these phenomena are also explained using theÂ ‘morphogenetic field’ theory as popularized by Rupert Sheldrake.Shall I mention the “Buddha-field”, a realm existing in the primordial universe outside of space time, produced by the Buddha’s merit? Hmmm, maybe. But surely I’ll acknowledge the ‘energy-field’ Â as I have been using the term in the “energy-work” I do since 1987, a term that later, upon leaving my role as a guru behind I’ve dropped to use “dynamic presencing” instead because it is a method, really, a way to create a greatly coherent region within the Living Fieldthat connects, informs and enlivens living beings.
A field in physics is an intrinsic part of each point in space-time; we could say it informs that point and/or expresses it’s forces or properties and how it interacts with other points in space-time. A physical field can be measured by the proper gadgets.
A knowing field, as we encounter it in systemic constellations can not be measured with physical gadgets because it is not a physical property as we know them at this moment in history. But whoever has participated in a constellation and ‘all of a sudden’ knew things about the person s/he was representing will attest to its informative reality. Having both facilitated and participated in hundreds of systemic constellations I can affirm, “The knowing field is as real as the understanding you get by reading this constellation of letters, these paragraphs.” In some way a well facilitated constellation makes implicit knowledge, emotions, tendencies etc. explicit – deep, often transforming understanding surfaces through the dynamically located presence of representatives in a constellation.
The morphogenetic field [derived from Greek: morphe=form, and genese=create] as Rupert Sheldrake uses the term is also not (yet?) measurable by any means we know of but it gives us an elegant explanation of what helps form such sophisticated ‘things’ as plants or bodies. Genes act upon fields, which then act upon the developing organism, goes the thought. Ever since Sheldrake has experimented and written elequently about these fields they also are taken to be essentially non-local, and the theory also can explain why after, for instance, a substance has crystallized for the first time in one laboratory the next crystallization in a different laboratory far away happens both in a similar way and a tidbit faster; as if the field informs the substance of the ‘best way’ to form a crystal. In a very interesting way it is Plato’s theory of forms all over again.
With the Buddha-field we explicitly enter the dimension of spirituality. In essence, similar to a morphogenetic field, a Buddha-field would inform the aspirants on the Buddhist path by surfacing as enlightening experience or insight within the inner ecology of mind, the personal noosphere. A Buddha-field would differ from, for instance, a “Christ-field” as what it causes to surface in the inner ecology has different forms and different associations attached to these, but both fields (and other such as the “Aura” or “Subtle body field“, for instance) are surely part of the “Spirit-field” as it unfolds within and between conscious beings.
The Living Field that I have been accessing for the first time some 35 years ago but more systematically and consciously the last 25 years mostly through dynamic presencing and systemic constellations, and in the last 5+ years increasingly with circles of the heart and spontaneously in other contexts as well… the Living Field, in my view embraces all non-physical fields mentioned above in as much as they express within and between living beings. It surfaces as meaning, inner depth, beauty, healing, empowerment, solidarity, mutuality, to name but a few way that it comes to light. If we consider the effects a coherent living field can have on participation, engagement and collaboration and its consequences in social or financial benefits we might even arrive at quantifiable effects and eventually measurements in the future.
Most if not all of us have experiences of the living field. Remember the last time you were talking with someone and time faded away? You got so involved in the conversation, being absorbed in both listening and speaking, following the thread of the conversation, open, authentic, in full sympathy-mode… It was a “silver hour”. And when you remember it you don’t necessarily remember the exact content of that conversation; but it’s spirit still turns you on when you think about it. This is what a coherent living field can feel like.
As human beings we are super-social animals. The Living Field has evolved with and through all our ways of being together, and feeds back into it. We all know it immediately; it feels good, nourishing. It is most likely the main cause of the happiness a rich social life brings – and the suffering a lonely, disconnected life causes. It is connected with our emotions and most likely our highest ethical values that guide our every day actions (giving us ‘negative’ feelings when we do not move in the direction our ‘highest values’ indicate). We could regard the life-orienting values as ‘attractors’ in the living field, and because we are super-social we can very easily feel what moves the person we meet. A resonance in the living field between people creates some coherence that strengthens that particular constellation of values. A “silver hour” then is an event when a good conversation moves into higher and higher resonance: values are aligning, meaning is apparent and shared on the fly, empathic flows meander into blissful estuaries.
The Living Field spans the whole spectrum from the experience of being one with a Supreme Being, or Nature to the instant spark of sympathy upon seeing a stranger, from communication with disembodied entities to sitting in a circle with friends, from intuiting where the person sitting opposite you comes from to inspired teamwork. Yet, for the purposes of this post I refer to the Living Filed most of all in the practical context of participative design and the ecology fostering collaboration.
I have worked a lot on the concept but most of all on the practise of Collaboration Ecology in these last 2 years, co-creating social networking software and practices for community managers, community builders or whatever you want to call these new professionals serving the community and giving it a strong voice in the top-management of a social network. Getting to know Jascha Rohr recently and discovering how close our ideas on many of these issues come I’ve come to understand many of the principles underlying the creation of an ecology of collaboration as participatory design.
Imagine you have to create something that will be used by many people. Let’s, for example take the product to be a little park in a new neighborhood. Ordinarily the local government calls on some expert park planners or landscape architects, lets them draft some plans, presents these plans to the population through some bureaucratic procedure and then decides what it’s going to be. It then has this plan implemented by a company making the cheapest offer on tender. After a very long time, usually some years, the park is finalized and within a year or two it looks quite ugly because the city doesn’t have enough money to keep it in a beautiful state (if indeed it was that in the beginning), and since it’s not theirs but the government’s park the citizens do not take care.
Now imagine you involve many people from this neighborhood by using a process of participatory design. This means the citizens, maybe supported by a professional or two, don’t get to vote on 2 or 3 plans but actually collaboratively create the plan themselves in a participatory process. Because the facilitators of the participatory design process know of the power of a coherent living field they take much care for it to unfold its power; they create the beginnings of an ecology of collaboration. Making the plans within a coherent living field deepens the connection between people so that it is often amazing how fast and smooth the collection of ideas and wishes and the deciding on what is best for the common good goes. Obviously such a process turns all participants into stakeholders of the end-result, the park. And since it is not just communal property but has turned into a common good the likelihood that it will be received and kept beautiful for decades by the neighborhood is great. Actually it is most likely that it will be a focus of a coherent living field in the neighborhood much beyond clear psychological and social factors introduced by the participatory design process.
Grassroot-movements, since their first big bloom in the Sixties, have grown so much that this way of organizing is very much a standard among “concerned citizens”. When grassroot-movements have to deal with more traditional power structures (businesses, governmental organisations, etc.) the top-down approach of these organisations and the bottom-up structures of grassroot-organisations can cause very challenging situations.
Yet, looking at a situation like this as a living field that could well do with some more resonance allows us to look for ways that both types of organizations can connect maybe more harmonious. This is exactly, what a Collaboration Ecologist does – he’ll be looking for some kind of process that everybody would be willing to engage in, a process that would bring everybody together for some hours so that a sense of “We’re in this together” can unfold. From the point of view of the living field this means that a higher coherence and first level alignment of forces within the field can happen.
One of the first steps of a collaboration ecologist will always be to create a process (involving as many stakeholders as possible) where everybody will listen to each other and deepen their understanding of a) what ‘we’ are talking about and b) who is involved. Next this is deepened and reflected upon. If this is done by talented people and there aren’t too many ‘prickly plants’ in the collaboration ecology a coherent living field starts to form. If this can be pointed out a quantum jump towards community and mutual understanding can happen that greatly enhaces the richness and will very fast lead to strong results of “what we’re talking about.” Whoever has participated in a process like this that led to a high coherence in the living field will be deeply touched by the experience and motivated to engage much more strongly.
Knowing about, but most of all having been immersed knowingly in the living field lots of times helps. And at the same time the challenge for the facilitator of these participatory processes remains the same: You need to put yourself at a point where you are willing to change, willing to surrender to what emerges in the process itself, trusting that what human beings – often almost in spite of themselves – tend towards is strengthening the resonance of a living field. Understanding this and helping to orient the field towards practical collaboration is the fine art.
I see participatory design and it’s implementation as something that naturally emerges from a coherent living field that is looked at with the purpose to create an optimum ecology for collaboration.
Out beyond the ideas of right-doing or wrong-doing there is a field — I’ll meet you there. ~ Jelaluddin Rumi