Thursday 29 October 2009


I seem to be suffering from a very acute tiredness which seems to have affected me since Friday. It's making me think a lot about boredom as a form of suffering (part of what I feel is 'bored'). To 'not be bothered' with things is interesting. Does it mean that I can't see any point, or any advantage, in doing things? That means I play these things in my head, I see if I can escape my 'bored' context, and I realise that I can't. Why do I then force myself to do many things anyway? Even if half-hearted? Because I (intellectually) know this phase will pass; I know that anything I do manage to do will be beneficial in the longer term, even if I see no benefit immediately; or at least, not doing anything is a worse option.

Tuesday 27 October 2009

Changing the Context

Here's another video about boredom. I am very tired at the moment... got a bit of a cold. Went to Tatton Park with Izzy today (half term) and then came home and she made a pumpkin for halloween (a good one too). Changing the context, getting more energy, trying to 'get going' is a struggle. I try things in hope, but they don't change things. I'm still obsessed with wanting to change the context. Communicating, reflecting, writing this blog.. these things can help (why is that?)

Monday 26 October 2009

A smilative improvisation (by way of an explanatory principle!)

I tried to do a happy improvisation.. certainly in response to some happy events (musical party on Sunday... great fun!) But does 'being happy' explain the 'smiley' feelings I have?? I don't think so. A smilative principle isn't useful to me. I want a deeper explanation (which inevitably will still be an explanatory principle... but it might be one which leads me to do something that puts me more in control of my own and others' 'smilativeness'). What is a 'happy' (smilative?) organisation? Maybe it's one which positions others well, connecting its own perception and communication systems with social communicative actions which keep differences being made which lead to greater connection between perception and communication. That's a smilative mechanism. And here's a smilative improvisation.

Saturday 24 October 2009


I was pleased to catch Geoff Mulgan giving a keynote at the northern regeneration summit last week. Very interesting (I only know of him through his apparent interest in Stafford Beer). His talk drew the focus to indexes of happiness in communities, rather than quantitative material measures. He produced some graphs which seemed slightly dubious.

I'm not sure about Happiness - particularly as Layard sees it (and I think he is the principle influence on Mulgan's work). It is, like so many words that describe how we feel, an explanatory principle. It explains why I smile, why I have lots of energy, why I laugh a lot, why I sleep well, why I work hard, why I rarely complain, why I often praise. But it doesn't really. Just as opium causes us to sleep because of it's 'dormitive principle' (as in Moliere), does happiness causes us to smile because of its 'smilative principle'? Does it cause us to have lots of energy because of its 'energising principle'?

For better explanations, we must look at what happiness does, not what it is. We must then consider the mechanisms that produce those outcomes (which are probably dependent on the cultural context too). My guess is that Luhmann, Bateson, Beer, Maturana, etc may be able to shed some light on this.

Thursday 22 October 2009

Violent improvisation and interesting ideas

Book ideas

This improvisation stemmed from boredom. I'm certainly very interested in boredom at the moment. Was talking to Dai about a possible book which combined the Hypnerotomachia Polyphilia of Colonna, Hoffstadter, the Wasteland and the Little Prince. It would start with boredom. Good day at JISC yesterday.. role play went really well.

Friday 16 October 2009

Discipline, Subject and Identity

Some interesting fallout from the external examiner. It's raised some big questions, which when I examine them only get bigger. One of the big issues concerns the relationship between discipline and subject. The video (which has an improvisation which I'm really pleased with) shows me thinking through some of this stuff.

What to add here is something about the relationship between discipline, subject and identity. I think discipline may be an organising principle for identity, for the individual. As an organising principle, it affects all levels of regulation of the individual. Subject, on the other hand, may only be a set of dispositions (knowledge, skills) for engaging with a particular context. If the context changes, we learn a new subject. But we may hold to the same organising principle.

Tuesday 13 October 2009

very tired... and self-imprisonment

good day but very tired!

Wednesday 7 October 2009


This improvisation hovers between boring and trance-like. It imagines the shear boredom of being in a context over which you have no control. The only differences you can make are to reflect on how little control you have, how much you might want to change, and how much any change is impossible.

Towards an understanding of Boredom

Apart from the terrible un-authodox (sic) spelling in this movie, I'm pleased that the process of thinking about boredom, longing and suffering has gradually led me back to Bateson's distinction between symmetrical and complementary schizmogenesis. Boredom has many of the characteristics of complementary schizmogenesis. Imagine a child staring out of a window on a rainy day with nothing to do but to stay in. The differences that make a difference keep differences within the child being made. There can be no differences made with the environment, because the environment won't allow it.

Sunday 4 October 2009

Prolongation, curiosity and boredom

This improvisation has a repeating melody with a transforming melodic context which disrupts it. As the disruption occurs, the melodic ideas are prolonged through being seen from different 'angles' (contexts). Curiosity, the longing for knowledge, is maintained. The longing builds a certain tension... as if having seen the melody from those contexts where it is 'understood', either a radical new context is found to re-represent it, or some radical change in the melody should occur (this doesn't happen here). The disruption of the harmony is the different that makes the difference that keeps the difference being made. The difference being made is the longing (for knowledge?). What if there was a radical shift (a modulation for example, or a new theme)? This would be an exhortation - presenting an entirely new world... Would it 'explain', 'attain knowledge'? It's immediate effect would be to radically change the context so that what might have happened before becomes more distant an more explicable. But the longing isn't satisfied. It is maintained. The difference of exhortation is a different sort of difference which keeps the difference being made.

Curiosity and the prolongation of longing

The issues of prolongation, longing, curiosity, reductionism.. all the aspects which affect the individual's disposition towards learning.. are occupying my thoughts. I am curious about them. That means that I keep on thinking about these things. Each thought makes a difference to me that keeps the differences being made.

What about the uncurious? There are a lot of people who appear uncurious. But they're not really uncurious. I'm sure they are curious about sex and shopping at the very least! Indeed the fact that they are curious keeps the economy going.. Is their curiosity constrained by their social context? If you put them in a different social context (like Shaw's Pygmalion), will they start talking about particle physics or Nietzche? A constructivist view of the world would suggest that they might.

Is curiosity causal or are ideas causal? Curiosity certainly leads to behaviour (it kills cats for example). Ideas (reductions) channel curiosity and consequently channel behaviour. They can also be dangerous.

If my curiosity is just focused on sex and shopping, is my life any poorer than if my curiosity is on Nietzche, particle physics and Cardinal Newman (plus sex and shopping!)? What might 'poorer' mean?

These questions are leading somewhere I think. It ties into an argument for education as relating to human dignity. The question is however, who is to say what human dignity is, or what role education ought to play??

Friday 2 October 2009

Prolongation and difference

How is prolongation related to difference? On one level, if something is prolonged, it is not different. But on the other hand, if prolongation is "the different that makes a difference that keeps the difference being made" then clearly they are related.

Thursday 1 October 2009


I've been thinking a lot about prolongation in music - particularly since I started playing around with these 'string' improvisations. In music we talk of prolongation in many ways: prolongation in terms of duration; the prolongation of musical ideas (through repetitition); the prolongation of pitch structure (through some Schenkerian process). What is prolongation?

In society, we have prolongation of social structure, produced through reproduction and transformation. If I hold a string sound for 10 seconds, it precisely reproduces and transforms (at every instant it is different) a musical context (which might be the analogue of social structure).

Is it 'the difference that makes the difference that keeps the difference being made'...?