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Feb 20th, 2012


Everything exists in the process of constant relation to everything else. However this sentence (this situation) makes sense depends on the context, the moment, the person who reads it, the medium and many other simultaneously happening relational processes. It is a multiplicity of dynamically interacting parts where even the parts (zoom in) themselves can be multiplicities (zoom out). There are multiple possible solutions and yet only some are actualized at every moment of time. [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6]

This condition is called polysingularity. It’s when human beings come into play and simplify the complexity by making choices.

Polysingularity is the insistence on the specific solutions knowing that these are only some of the many possible ones. [7]

Polysingularity is like playing a game being fully committed to the rules but also knowing that there are many other games to play available at any moment. [8] [4]

Polysingularity is making a very specific expression in a way that echoes the many other possible ones.

It is a practice of finding the essence pertaining to multiplicity the very moment it occurs.

It is a practice of wandering in between and falling into the strange attractors scattered within the chaotic phase space of occurrences, being able to shift any moment. [9] [10] [5]

777 Beginnings by Stefan Haase

Polysingularity is not contingency in that it folds the omnipotence of chaos onto the human capacity to make choices. Everything could have been otherwise and yet everything is the specific way it is right now and that is what matters in polysingularity as much as the possibility of it to be something else. [12] [13]

Polysingularity is not singularity in that it is not mesmerized by the interconnected world where everything can relate to everything else. Polysingularity embraces ruptures, inequalities, and structural holes as the necessary conditions for evolution. Not the kind of neoliberal evolution directed towards the growth, but the kind of evolution directed towards exploring the many possible distinct states of attraction, each of which carries the world of its own within. [14]

Polysingularity can be better thought of through the framework of networks. The nodes are the people, the concepts, the objects, the situations and the connections are interactions between them. We can then take all these interactions along with all the nodes and represent the phase space of any dynamic process. The resulting graphs will show us the paths, the traces and the patterns produced by our cognition and social constellations. [1] [2]

The network above is the graph visualization of the preceding text. The nodes are the words and the connections are their co-occurrences. It shows the polysingularity of this text, the multiple possible solutions that can exist through narrative. [15] It also shows that polysingularity mediates interaction between the world and its conditions to the moment and to the process, between the tangible and the temporal. It is the human element within the contingency of omnipotent chaos that diverts the unpredictable towards specific choices. It is the force that creates the funnels of strange attractors across the state space of random wanderings that have happened before, happening right now, or will happen in the future. The capacity of the human mind to transcend possibilities through belief and persistence is that binding force that folds time back onto itself and produces specific solutions out of them.

In terms of the cognitive science polysingularity is the choices we make in a network of affordances. [5] Affordances are the environmental opportunities for action. When we perceive we become part of a dynamic relational process that involves our environment, our mind, our neurons, and our bodies. This dynamic process produces an action. Even imagination or representation is an action as well. Therefore when we perceive we constantly make choices within the network of affordances, selecting specific opportunities and disregarding the others. This also means that anything can change at any moment and yet when it is happening it is present, it is there, and it is real. That is polysingularity: a fully committed act of acting out certain affordances while being aware of the many other ones that exist. Polysingularity is being fully committed to a certain context while being able to shift it at any moment of time. Polysingularity is then a tribute to presence, a full use of human ability to perceive time both instant by instant and as a whole.

The structure of polysingular entity should in itself be polysingular. [16] That is, it should be constantly changing its shape and shifting its centers. The old basins of attraction should be replaced with the new ones, the most connected nodes should be expelled back into the foam and join different constellations while those at the periphery should be propelled towards the center only to give way to the new ones after some time again. This is the practice of inclusive exclusivity, the constant random rewiring that maintains heterogeneity within the network while the building blocks of this heterogeneity are in the constant flux. The network structure of polysingularity is a mix of distinct communities of densely connected nodes and random interactions. It is a practice of network promiscuity, meaning that members of a tightly-knit community should insist on their specificity (both individual and the group one) while being open to the other communities, while being willing to make random connections with the most remote orphaned nodes.

The best example of polysingular practice in a social context is reciprocal schismogenesis documented by anthropologists. [4] In order to avoid escalation of conflict and ensure a dynamic, yet sustainable social structure, they had a constant practice of shifting the societal roles. This way the heterogeneity of communities remains but every member of the community has a chance to try out a different position and experience that community from a novel position at a specific moment of time.

Polysingularity is also a practice of immunization within a network based on the constant movement, not on building the barriers through vaccination. It is an act of creatively restructuring one’s connectivity, both on the cognitive and on the social levels, in such a way that produces commitment and yet makes it possible to be flexible and to change at any moment. Polysingularity is a mere acknowledgement that an “individual” is a construct based on the commitment that different parts can come together even when they don’t fit and it is a celebration of the human capacity to believe in the impossible and thus transform fiction into the real and the other way round.

Cover image by Stefan Haase, “777 Beginnings”

Also see our Polysingularity blog

1 Newman, M. E. J., Barabasi, A.-L., & Watts, D. J. (2006). The structure and dynamics of networks. Princeton University Press.

2 Barabasi, A.-L., & Bonabeau, E. (2003). Scale-free networks. Scientific American, 288(5), 60-9.

3 Latour, B. (2005). Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network Theory. Oxford University Press.

4 Bateson, G. (1973). Steps to an Ecology of Mind. University of Chicago Press.

5 Cheremo, A. (2009). Radical Embodied Cognitive Science. The MIT Press.

6 Deleuze, G. & Guittari, F. (1987). A Thousand Plateaus. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press

7 Gabdulkhaev, B. G. (2005). Polysingular Integral Equations with Positive Operators, 49(11), 2005.

8 Caillois, R. (2001). Man, Play, and Games. University of Illinois Press.

9 Friedenberg, J.; Silverman, G. (2011). Cognitive Science: An Introduction to the Study of Mind, 2nd Edition. SAGE Publications.

10 Strogatz, S.H., (1994). Nonlinear Dynamics and Chaos Steven Henry Strogatz, ed., Perseus Books.

11 Haase, S. (2010). 777 Beginnings.

12 Ayache, E. (2010). The Blank Swan: The End of Probability. Wiley

13 Meillassoux, Q., Badiou, A., Brassier, R. (2010) After Finitude: An Essay on the Necessity of Contingency. Continuum International Publishing Group.

14 Kurweil, R (2005). The singularity is near: when humans transcend biology. Penguin.

15 Paranyushkin (2011). Visualization of Text’s Polysingularity Using Network Analysis. Nodus Labs.

16 Derrida, J. (1978). Writing and Difference. Structure, Sign, and Play. Routlege


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