Unpsychology Magazine’s Warm Data Challenge

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“The most important task of this moment is to generate a base of people who are eager to practice perceiving the complexity and interdependency in every aspect of our lives.” – Nora Bateson

Steve Thorp, editor of Unpsychology Magazine, will be our special guest for the entire Friday, November 26 session of the Open Genre Workshop. Steve is a writer, activist and psychotherapist working with themes of ecology, complexity and soul-making. He is the author of Lifesongs, published in 2021 by Raw Mixture Publishing, as well as previous titles Soul Meditations, Soul Manifestos and Pieces of Joy, Blue Marble and PoetryMix. He also runs writing/poetry workshops, alongside his soulmaking and climate psychology work with individuals and groups.

Past issues of Unpsychology Magazine have explored themes of childhood, climate, music and the other-than-human. As of Autumn of 2021, they have almost 1700 subscribers, and a growing team of contributors from psychology, art, activism and beyond. They are now inviting submissions for “Issue 8: Warm Data” being published in partnership with the Warm Data Host community, that has been growing around the work of Nora Bateson. This open call is for submissions of fiction, poetry, artwork, video and creative expressions. Essays and non-fiction are not requested in this instance. Issue 8 will be published in Spring 2022 as a digital and online anthology and will be offered free of charge to ensure maximum circulation of the ideas, writing and artwork.

This submission invitation is for Unpsychologists who may be thinking and creating ‘transcontextually’ — or for whom this theme evokes something new in their art and creativity.

Steve Thorp, Editor of Unpsychology Magazine at Green Mountain Writers talks about the magazine in part 1

At a time when our systems are failing, and our responses to the crises human beings face are increasingly inadequate, new insights are required. Nora Bateson’s ‘Warm Data’ work around trancontextuality, symmathesy and aphanipoeisis is beginning to offer comprehensive sets of ‘frames within frames’ for seeing the world. These insights recognize that change emerges from liminal spaces; the places between and unseen; relational fields and flows; the interdependence within and between living ecologies and systems; the creative self and selves.

Call for submissions for Issue #8 Warm Data, due by December 30, 2021

I encourage our writers to devote some time throughout the month of December to write, workshop, and submit your work for possible publication in Issue #8 Warm Data.

Unpsychology Magazine prefers work that is entirely original and hasn’t been published or submitted elsewhere. “We want to encourage new frames for responding to these themes — but if you have an existing project or perspective you think would fit this issue of Unpsychology, get in touch and have a chat with one of us.” Submit writing in Word or Pages. Artwork as high quality jpeg. Contact Steve or Julia at submissions@unpsychology.org with any queries.

Nora Bateson is an award-winning filmmaker, writer and educator, as well as President of the International Bateson Institute, based in Sweden. Her work asks the question, “How we can improve our perception of the complexity we live within, so we may improve our interaction with the world?” An international lecturer, researcher and writer, Nora wrote, directed and produced the award-winning documentary, An Ecology of Mind, a portrait of her father, Gregory Bateson. Her work brings the fields of biology, cognition, art, anthropology, psychology, and information technology together into a study of the patterns in ecology of living systems. Her book, Small Arcs of Larger Circles, is a revolutionary personal approach to the study of systems and complexity.

Food is agriculture, economy, culture, and conversation, ancestral recipes, weavers of tablecloths, traditions of seasons, the perfect onion, a child’s berry-stained chin… Food is poetry, medicine, friendship, time, poison, economy. Ask the question ‘What is food?’—and the answer is not ‘the stuff on my plate.’ The answer is that food is about relationships. These relationships are formed between generations that plant together, between man and nature, between the family members who eat together; it is in the conversation, in the heritage of the weaver who makes the baskets used to take food to market in neighboring villages. It is in the relationship between towns economically. Seeds used in ceremony represent longterm linkages between people, nature, cycles, and attitudes toward the future.

Steve Thorp, Editor of Unpsychology Magazine at Green Mountain Writers talks about Warm Data in part 2

The following is an extract from her most recent and complex paper on Aphanipoiesis which provides an overview of Warm Data and related ideas:

The Backstory
Building upon the research of two other neologisms Warm Data (Bateson, 2017) and Symmathesy (Bateson, 2016), a third has become necessary to describe an unseen property within living systems. I will introduce the word aphanipoiesis — meaning a coalescing of unseen factors toward vitality.

This paper is an introduction, primarily to the new word, but will include a description of its place with the other two words as seen in the research of the last three years within the Warm Data processes. All three words have their basis in abductive process and explore inevitable mutuality of formation through transcontextual relational process.

The study of change is usually caught in the cultural cul-de-sac of measured differences in decontextualized outcomes; a more relational study would note that changes that have become visible or measurable are not the change itself, but rather the consequence of more interrelational shiftings within a living system. Therefore, it is useful to consider the abductive processes at work in the deeper formation of relational change. The ways in which the multiple entities of a living system are continually responding to the shiftings of each other are moving potentialities for change. It may be possible to name the changes once they form, but by then, the deeper abductive possibilities have long since been brewing across and through multiple contexts. The need to find language through which to approach a discussion of this pre-emergence realm of communication prompted the forming of the new word to describe it. I have previously referred to it as “submergence” in other publications, but I acknowledge that language is probably inadequate to address the complexity of the process which aphanipoiesis can hold. While it may be that there is a kind of submergence of unseen impressions that produces a basis for the pathways of what will later appear as emergence, the submergence alone is not stirring the pot. To stir the pot of existing underpinnings of sense-making, a combining of experiences through multiple contexts sets things in motion. A meadow is only a meadow through the many forms of communication and relationship between the organisms. The earthworm is in different “mutual relationshipping” with the soil, the trees, the grasses, the insects, and so on. Each of these organisms is correspondingly in multiple relational processes with the other organisms of the meadow; the vitality of the meadow is continued through these many responses reflecting through many contexts.

First coined and published in 2015 and presented at the ISSS meeting in Berlin of that year, symmathesy is the study of how systems learn through transcontextual mutual learning. This study has opened up many new prospects of inquiry through the question, “How is it learning to be in its world?” — a crooked tree, a disturbed child, an insect in the jungle. The inquiry which emerges from this symmathesetic question pushes the observer into a perception of the ways in which the studied system is described through its relational contexts. The tree is learning to be in the soil it is in, it is learning to be in the shadows of the trees nearby, it is learning to be in relation to other organisms that are in turn learning to be with the tree. Symmathesy as a concept has been brought to evolutionary biology, family therapy, healing conflict, political polarity in communities, and more.

Warm Data
As the International Bateson Institute began to research “How Systems Learn,” it became clear that there was a need for a description of another kind of information, which could hold the ever-shifting and responding of transcontextual processes. That word became Warm Data. Warm Data is a term coined in 2012 to describe transcontextual, relational information. Warm Data is information that is alive and shifts within the mutual learning of all living systems. Information that describes the ever-changing relationships between contexts must hold second-order cybernetics, paradox, and authorize perception of the aesthetic, texture, or tone of the meta-communication in the systems. The practice and development of the Warm Data processes brought a strong taste of the potentialities in this lively zone of contextual overlapping and reframing. But it was impossible to pin down, impossible to predict, and impossible to see.

The research through which these observations are surfacing is through Warm Data Labs and the online Warm Data process known as People Need People. These processes are transcontextual mutual learning sessions open to anyone of any level of education to participate in. They are hosted in 40+ countries by 600 certified Warm Data hosts who have undergone a study grounded in many Batesonian theories. The process consists of a question offered to the group who will discuss their thoughts in stories or other impressions as they move through multiple contexts. The question might be, “what is continuing?” — and the contexts might be ecology, education, economy, health, family, history, identity, technology, religion/spirituality. As participants move through the contexts, their inputs begin to intertwine, fuse into new insights, and reframe memory. But it is not so easy to pinpoint where the change is taking place, or how, or to what end. In this form of conversation, people find that as they discuss their ideas “about” the given contexts, how the contexts link into their lives is revealing a form of learning happening “within” and between the contexts. The relationship between the “about” and “within” of the conversations in these practices has been fascinating and essential.

What has become increasingly clear through these processes after hosting hundreds of Warm Data labs with thousands of people is that it is necessary to re-examine what is meant by “change” in living systems, such that the change might be distributed throughout the system in unseen ways. Instead of isolating cause and effect, goal and strategy to produce a particular change that is explicit and perhaps measurable, there appears to be a realm of potential change, a necessarily obscured zone of wild interaction of unseen, unsaid, unknown flexibility. The potency of this change is easily dismissed because it does not show up on the report with coherent analysis. This sort of change seems to eschew analysis. In fact, analysis as we know it is not suitable for studying this sort of slippery poly-learning. The ways in which the learning is “actionized” are entirely different for each participant; these sea-changes often move silently into many aspects of life from professional to personal, without being traced back to the Warm Data work. The shifts in perception run deep enough that they are felt to have been there all along and are simply woken up by the Warm Data, or better still, continue without any mention or reference to Warm Data at all. They submerge.

The way in which Warm Data Labs both imitates life and disrupts cultural segregation of contextual attention is significant to this study. As participants move between contexts having conversations, they are zooming in on the details of their particular context — say, education or ecology. But they also “know” they are in a transcontextual setting and that economy, health, culture, and politics are also vaguely “there” producing conversations, which achieve simultaneous zoom in and zoom out — implicitly.

How the original question asked in the Warm Data Lab unfolds through each context is utterly personal and unique to the moment and the group of people in the conversation. The detail and intimacy of these conversations reconnect the broader systemic view into the participants’ particular life experiences. This reconnection is critical. The structures of systemic processes become tangible in people’s memories of their lives. Not as a vocabulary or model — but as participants move to another “context” and continue — the conversation they just had does not fall out of their bodies. Rather it is there, informing the following conversation, infusing the next context’s discussion with the flavors and memories that were stirred in the last. In this way, transcontextual learning is a re-tissuing of understandings between the people as they move through contexts, memories, language, and non-language.

Again, where is the change?

Those looking for a focused action plan toward a solution of a particular issue will be frustrated by the Warm Data processes. They will be unable to perceive the shifts that are taking place — like the famous story of the man looking for his keys under the lamppost who is asked by a passerby where he lost his keys. To which he replies, he lost them in the dark forest — not under the lamp where he is looking. So why is he looking for his keys under the lamp? Because that is where he can see. Like the lost keys, the change is in the dark forest. Not where we can see it.

One of the most important things I have learned through this work seems terribly obvious: one cannot explicitly change that which is implicit. This is where the Warm Data work has been so difficult to defend — in a world that seems to have forgotten the potency of the implicit. It is also juicy.

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  1. Wow! Love this post. I haven’t been challenged to reflect on abductive thinking since I was in graduate school in the 1990s and working with Daiyo Sawada at the University of Alberta. At the time I read everything I could get my hands on by Gregory Bateson, Nora Bateson’s father. I’ve got Nora’s book, Smaller Arcs of Larger Circles and I’ll be reading and enjoying that. 

  2. I started writing about “relational consciousness” a few years ago, and it seems to be somehow echoing is thinking on warm data. I’m looking forward to this meeting very much. This is just a continuation of my above post. . .I don’t know why I’m being called “anonymous”. . . that’s not me for sure. DW wrote the above post and this one. Peace. DW

  3. Hi again, it’s me again. I just found it: It was published as a chapter in a textbook, Educational Psychology in Context, Eds. Bruce Marlowe & Alan Canestrari: “Toward a Pedagogy of Depth in Everyday Classrooms: Exploring Relational Consciousness Among Teachers and Young Children.” Darlene L. Witte-Townsend and Anne E. Hill Sage 2006

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