Jan Zwicky speaks of resonant relationships among wholes. These wholes are not clarified through analysis, nor are they built up piece by piece through synthesis. In my preferred vocabulary, I would say that they are wholes conceived as given. Their meaning comes not from the atomic bits that compose them, but from the articulate whole that comprises them. The articulations that relationally differentiate participants-within-wholes interpenetrate and crisscross all that is, producing a complex field of possible likeness, each a resonance, a taken-together given.
In the past I have visualized the relationship of the synthesized truth with the conceived truth — of the composed world with the comprised world — of the systematized with the articulate — as an overlaid top-down and bottom-up triangle.
This week I have been revisiting an old theme connected with service design: altitude and granularity.
One of the formative intellectual developments of my generation was chaos theory. We came of age when computers became capable of visualizing fractal geometric figures, and when James Gleick’s Chaos was published. For many Gen-X nerds, nonlinearity, the butterfly effect, and scalar self-similarity became part of our basic conceptual equipment at the precise age when nerds self-equip.
So for me, with hours of playing with the Mandelbrot Set in my memory, zooming in and out and noting what wholes and parts come into prominence within a visual field as it is magnified or reduced, altitude and granularity are experience-near concepts and I see them everywhere in everything. And I am seeing them in Zwicky’s observations of resonance.
Every altitude of inquiry produces different salient conceptions.
Imagine specificity and generality of a subject presented in different kinds of text. Compare a detailed ethnomethodological study with a book about ethnomethodology, with a sociology textbook. Each looks upon its subject from a particular altitude, and handles ideas of particular types (a particular case, a specific method, a general field of inquiry), putting them into systematic or articulate relation, each with a certain grain and texture and tone.
I’ve found that my own mind responds well to some altitudes and granularities better than others. They are very precise — I like to understand things up-close and at an interpersonal level. Sweeping histories that do not anchor in individual experience feel unreal to me. But great social trends that can be shown in terms of artistic style are real. I can absorb an aesthetic style and sense the enworldment that produces it. But discussion of social forces and policy conflicts — again unreal. Grand military history — meaningless. Geography defined by ecosystems or by societies subsisting on various natural resources — nebulous and vacant. A survey of the world’s religions — now the entire world is colorfully mapped. Stories of particular people in particular places. Borges snd Casares made Argentina real for me; Ben Okri, Nigeria.
It seems nothing in the world is real to me unless it is refracted through another person’s lived experience. Only enworldments enworld my world.
If information is presented objectively, out of reference from some particular person’s enworldment, it means nothing to me. The only science I care about is the science a real human scientist did — Robert Boyle, Ben Franklin, Lois Pasteur — so, thank you, STS. I cannot see science apart from the stories of people in laboratories or observatories, or working at desks, interacting with equipment a\that provides them obscure clues in the form of messy data, which they, like me, struggle to bring into persuasive order. The persuasive order — the “science” — that is no foundation for making sense of this world we inhabit!
Years ago, Nietzsche consoled me by painting this portrait:
The truly efficient and successful scholars could one and all be described as ’employees’. When in their youth they had perfected their skills and crammed their memories, when hand and eye had acquired certainty, they were directed by an older scholar to a place in science where their qualities would be useful; later on, after they themselves had become accomplished enough to detect the gaps and faults in their science, they posted themselves of their own accord to where they were needed. These natures one and all exist for the sake of science: but there are rarer, rarely successful and wholly mature natures ‘for the sake of whom science exists’ — at least that is what they themselves think — : frequently unpleasant, frequently arrogant, frequently wrong-headed but almost always to a certain extent bewitching men. They are not employees, neither are they employers, they avail themselves of that which these have laboured to ascertain and do so with a certain princely composure and rarely with more than a modicum of praise: as though, indeed, those employees and employers belonged to a lower species of beings. And yet they possess precisely the same qualities as these employers and employees do, and sometimes even in an inferior state of development: they are, moreover, characterized by a narrow limitedness foreign to the former, on account of which it is impossible to appoint them to a post or see in them usable instruments — they can live only in their own atmosphere and on their own soil. This limitedness proffers them all of a science that ‘belongs to them’, that is to say all they can bear home with them to their atmosphere and dwelling; they fancy they are collecting together their scattered ‘property’. If they are prevented from constructing their own nest they perish like houseless birds; unfreedom is phthisis to them. If they cultivate individual regions of science in the way the others do, it is always only those regions where the fruit and seeds they themselves need will prosper; what is it to them if science as a whole has regions untilled and ill cultivated? They lack all impersonal interest in a problem; just as they themselves are personalities through and through, so all their insights and acquirements in the field of knowledge coalesce together into a personality, into a living multiplicity whose individual parts are dependent on one another, cleave to one another, are nourished by the same food, and as a whole possesses its own atmosphere and its own odour. — Natures such as this produce, with their personality-informed structures of knowledge, that illusion that a science (or even the whole of philosophy) is finished and has reached its goal; it is the life in their structure that performs this magic, which has at times been very fateful for science and misleading for those able and efficient workers of the spirit just described, though at other times, when aridity and exhaustion have reigned, it has acted as a balm and like the breath of a cool, refreshing oasis. — The name usually given to such men is philosophers.