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Synergy and Sympoiesis in the Writing of Joint Papers

(The Anticipation within Imagination)

PART 1 - Abstract and Introduction

O#o van Nieuwenhuijze & John Wood


co-anticipation, co-authorship, co-imagination, metadesign, synergy


Synergy can be seen as energy liberation by systems integration as for, example, when waves share a common ‘carrier wave’. This paper studies the synergy in co-authorship, i.e. when authors experience new insights that transcend their individual understanding. Synergy couples four perspectives, each with its own ‘language’ of description: 1) the individual viewpoint, 2) the inter-authors relationship, 3) their inner-inter-action dynamics, and 4) new meaning in the joint context. Synergising is an art in which outcomes are the unpredictable consequences of personal involvement in the process. Integrity is also maintained by managing feelings: the authors regulate their contribution in line with what is felt to be the common intent.

1) Introduction

In addressing the topic of writing a joint paper, the authors explore the principles of interfacing between different viewpoints (and in fact disciplines of science) to establish a principle of collaboration (synergy) by which the expertise of either standpoint can be combined, and enhanced, to bring out new understanding. The paper will show that this requires a study of the modes of involvement of the participants/authors, as well as a dynamic process of participation, which supplements the skills of science with those of art. The prime point of this paper is that this is needed to resolve conflicts (of mankind with nature), which are mainly caused by the separation between disciplines of science. The paper proposes an organic understanding (that of disciplines of science as 'organs in a body') that requires insight into the way the boundary between disciplines can be resolved. The writing of a joint paper brings out the principles that may apply. They ask for a reposition of understanding (the locus of control) on the interface, which requires both a shift of involvement from Objective to Subjective (combining and balancing both). It also calls for the realisation that in interfacing different reflex levels (and levels of conscious awareness) are involved than usually addressed and explored in science.


There is good reason for this exploration. We know that abuse of natural resources such as petroleum oil and gas are finite resources is causing extensive environmental damage. This is a complex situation that calls for a complex response. The paper suggests that prepare to re-design 'living styles', rather than individual products. Unless we see urban planning, food production, healthcare, transport etc. as an integrated whole, we will fail to reduce the spiralling consumption of resources. However, this calls for a far more holistic, integrated, and therefore cross-disciplinary approach than we have achieved so far. Indeed, the urgency and scale of the task requires us to think in new ways; and to devise a more shareable, positive, and optimistic discourse of change. If society must 'do more with less' we must work at a level that is exceedingly complex, multi-dimensional, emergent and co-contingent. This places the task beyond the reach of what conventional design practice can do. It requires a viable ‘meta-design’ approach (c.f. Giaccardi, 2005) that that will interpolate both across, and between, many areas of knowledge. At its most ambitious level, meta-design must deliver an eventual ‘synergy of synergies’ (Fuller, 1975) that is accessible both from within the epistemological and the organizational domain. This paper explores one aspect of this process. In reflecting upon their own practices of (co-) writing, the authors are reminded that co-authorship is an under-theorized method of creating and sharing new knowledge and understanding, both across, and within disciplines. Any success in making new sense out of different authorial perspectives may be crucially important, because it may lead to the emergence of new scientific disciplines and/or social, technological, and other responsible practices that may have been inconceivable within existing discourses.

Although academic co-authorship remains an important and accepted practice for science and design, it lacks a practical methodology. For historic reasons, science has tended to focus more on the procedures and outcomes of its actions and methods, rather than the creative, and co-creative processes that mediate them. As a result, collaborative writing is seldom taught within the conventional academic syllabus. This is unfortunate, as it is an effective way to reconcile different or even seemingly contradictory theories or models; and to develop new modes of shared practice. In this paper, the term 'co-authorship' does not refer to the custom of editing discrete specialist contributions together as a single document. It confines itself, rather, to describing a co-evolution of the whole text. Because this type of co-authorship is usually a protracted, dynamic and multi-layered task, it is both an art and a science. The effective co-production of new knowledge in science calls for a reasonably high level of mutual and reflexive self-awareness of each author's personal strengths and weaknesses. Professionals who collaborate effectively must therefore acquire and develop sub-cognitive (e.g. intuitive) skills that are 'co-anticipatory' in order to guide the overall outcomes of collaboration. The ‘creative space’ of collaborative writing resides in a kind of intermediate zone that is constructed by, and resides in ‘between’ the author's intentions, rather than within them, as individuals. Often, the dynamic process itself leads to an emergent outcome which that can be evaluated only after it has been attained. Nonetheless, a common form that may otherwise be present in a single discipline is absent, and needs to be generated or agreed. Inevitably, these skills and strategies will be informed by the ideological, cultural, and cognitive preferences of the authors themselves. The process of interfacing (attaining the 'in-between-ness') is a reciprocal hermeneutic process in which both parties strive to reach a common aim or goal. Imagination with/in Anticipation is used to guide the process of developing new options for deeper, joint, understanding.


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