March 21, 2013
Emerging systems: new ways of structuring information

One of the most rooted conceptions in our own way of seeing, understanding and interacting with the world, is the hierarchical thinking. This concept, that can seem alien at first sight, is the basis around which all our relationship models are structured. From our family environment, ruled over by the father figure, to government structures, through teaching peculiar spaces or working life, the society’s general context transforms our way through it into the ascent wish in an imposed hierarchy. Nevertheless, there exist other ways of relationship that also generate dynamism and establish links between the elements that form the social field, that have little or nothing to do with hierarchical way of comprehending reality. This is about emerging systems, understood as a group of elements of equal significance, not stratified, capable of creating behaviours of complex nature thanks to its interrelation as simple parts of a global system. Under the emergence notion, significant research in the social sciences, biology, applied maths or cybernetics fields are placed. Emerging behaviours have been observed in insect colonies and hives that work as a global brain in the group’s benefit; our own nervous system is composed by an intricate network of neurons which transmit chemically the necessary impulses for our organism to work; even in the way in which our cities organize themselves in a negligible level, we can see emerging behaviours that configure the habitat so that it allows to cover our basic needs. In fact, in a deeper analysis, we could see as each contact, relationship or glance, each of the situations that we daily experience, make emerge behaviours that determine its own consequences. The emergence is an observable phenomenon in the nature, nonetheless its intentioned uses as system behaviour model, have not been much exploited, beyond the software field, where it has enabled artificial intelligence complex systems development. Emergence possibilities in its application to areas such as the sentient citites, main working line of the research group recently configured in ESDi, are many and of great potential, from the structures and environments generation in which information can be transmitted to citizens in a completely direct way, to the possibility of understanding the city as a major homeostatic corpus itself, meaning that, it is able to regulate itself independently if necessary. To develop emerging processes in a particular area, especially involves putting the importance of agents who tend to make decisions, before the importance of each of the group individuals. In an ant colony, the leadership of the queen is not bigger than the worker’s (it does not happen with the importance of their role). Both have the ability to communicate at the same level and through the same means. An empirical phenomenon in which these processes take place in the context of human society, is the network, especially in the 2.0 trend, that we are even about to overtake. Social networks and platforms that generate different channels open and accessible to any user, transform the information communication and dissemination processes in a non-hierarchical phenomenon, impossible to control by the old media. A phenomenon that emerges from the lower strata and, in turn, annuls the potential of any upper layer. But the net is not only a unidirectional communication media. Our passage through it leaves a data trail that others can follow, and that in turn, the media itself is able to assimilate. The ability to use this vast amount of data (that in many cases tends to be so subversive), is a quality of networks immense potential, that enable them to adapt to flows and individuals that pass through a process of self-regulation and constant evolution. In a first approach to the idea of emergence, the intention of my FDP (Final Degree Project) was to apply the model to the audiovisual field, so as to generate emerging narratives, stories able to evolve by themselves intelligently, without requiring the editor action to determine the order of events. Therefore, the need was to put the importance of the editor role before the importance of minimum units of meaning within the system composed of the audiovisual story: shots. Each shot was equipped with programmed behaviours that enabled him to associate with others who bear narrative similarity relationship, in addition to several alternatives that allowed him to look for potential developing means in case of collapse situation. It is through the union of all video pieces that narrative emerges and the story is presented. But the wide number of system possibilities, make that each interaction with the same outline a different narrative, new ways of interpreting the story, and generally a exponentially richer and more complex narrative is created. The result is an audiovisual product with a longer life and a higher level of user involvement, which requires a deeper experience with it. This application as well as the ideas outlined above, illustrate the great potential of emerging systems as applied to own and daily fields. It involves changes in the imposed structures, even in terms of our way of thinking and conceiving the societies reality, but new forms of relationships, work, communication, etc, (greatly linked to the use of technology), makes us think that the change towards an emerging and non-hierarchical way of understanding the world, is a natural process. Fran Pinel 21.03.2013