Enacting Ontological Design: A Vocabulary of Change from Organisms to Organisations

In Davide Secchi, Rasmus Gahrn-Andersen & Stephen J. Cowley (eds.), Organizational Cognition: The Theory of Social Organizing. Taylor & Francis (2022)
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In this chapter, the frameworks of enactive cognitive science (e.g., Baran- diaran 2008, 2017; Di Paolo et al. 2018) and ontological design, particu- larly the work of Tony Fry (e.g., 2009), are synthesized to give a general account of how humans act toward change at multiple scales. According to this synthesis, design is understood as a spatiotemporally extended form of adaptive self-regulation, or adaptivity in the enactive vocabulary (Di Paolo 2005). When we design, we regulate ourselves in the local-present to resource our future selves in ways that make certain regulations either possible or easier, and thus, desired outcomes more probable. Adaptivity, here, entails an ongoing redirection of the individuating tendencies of person-world systems either for maintaining some existing trajectories or for stabilizing new ones. This happens predominantly through modify- ing constraints at what Secchi and Cowley (2018, 2021) term the meso- scale of social organizing. This chapter considers diferent types of design (maintenance, habit, identity) operative across scales, from organisms to organizations. It concludes with some indications for how this perspective might be valuable in facing current ecological and environmental chal- lenges and the obvious demands they put on the need for change across all scales of human living.

Author's Profile

Mark M. James
Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology


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