The ARU Team

In order to take our Metadesigning for Children project to another level (see a summary of the project) we invited five MA students in illustration from Anglia Ruskin University to see whether we could collaborate on children's book/s. On 31st October 2022 two of them joined us for the first meeting.

A Brief Overview of the Project

(this is a biased personal account by John. Please accept our apologies if it is really tooooooo much to think about. This is a voluntary project and you do not have to accept this crazy assignment :-)

  1. The three of us (Hyaesook Yang, Dan Griner and John Wood) had been part of a research team exploring synergy and metadesign since 2008.
  2. After publishing our Metadesign Book in 2022 we realised that some of our concepts were potentially important in their meaning.
  3. Unfortunately, some concepts will sound unfamiliar, are alienating, or are too difficult to grasp for non-experts.
  4. We wondered whether children might understand the concepts better than adults do.
  5. We wanted to try using these concepts in children's books.
  6. So the three of us experimented with keywords chosen from the website.
  7. The ones that interested us most seemed to fall into two categories:
    • 1. those that describe the mechanism by which an organism stays alive (Maturana & Varela call this "maintaining its internal unity").
    • 2. those that describe the experience, or nature of being part of a group, or crowd. (e.g. Structural coupling - the process by which we grow as One.
  8. In the first category, Maturana and Varela use the term autopoiesis


  1. Hyaesook made this recent summary of her progress as Echo. CLICK HERE, HYAESOOK
      • Ecosemiotics
      • Biosemiotics.
      • Ecolinguistics
      • Stibbe, A., (2015), Ecolinguistics: language, ecology and the stories we live by, Routledge
      • Boguslawska-Tafelska, M., (2016), Ecolinguistics: communication processes at the seam of life, Peter Lang


  1. Dan interpreted the idea of Sympoiesis in a visual exploration of the African word Ubuntu.
    • I think he interpreted it as We Outnumber Us
    • See his visual images on our Miro site.


  1. As most living creatures are cellular (see cell logic this might be the basis for telling the story of life.
  2. However, although autopoiesis is not as straightforward as it may seem, we felt that it might feel too familiar.
  3. Many works of fiction already deal with similar concepts (e.g. 'self-help' is quite a common theme in fiction).
    • So we looked into some ideas from quantum physics and found that David Bohm's book Wholeness and the Implicate Order added something to this idea.
    • Bohm used an old word relevation to describe how one sub-atomic particle relevates another one into existence.
    • This reminds me of the old question, "if a trees falls in the forest, does it make a sound?"
    • In the 21st century, although it is common to hear the word 'relevant' used as an adjective (e.g. "your suggestion was relevant to my problem"), people no longer use it as a verb (e.g. "my problem relevated your suggestion").
    • At the sub-atomic level, Bohm describes a quantum particle as relevating another one into (its) existence, virtually as though it stands up because it is 'seen'.
    • Relevation comes into European languages through the old Latin word 'levare' "to raise," from levis "light" in weight, "not heavy," also, of motion, "quick, rapid or nimble".
    • The Latin word came from a Sanskrit word laghuh (quick, small) and can also be found in Greek elakhys "small," elaphros "light;" Old Church Slavonic liguku, Russian lëgkij, Polish lekki, Lithuanian lengvas "light in weight;" Old Irish lu "small," laigiu "smaller, worse;" Gothic leihts, Old English leoht "not heavy, light in weight etc.
    • There seems to have been two interpretations of the Old English word leht (Anglian), leoht (West Saxon):
      • 1. light, daylight (also as in the sense of spiritual illumination).
      • 2. not heavy, having little actual weight, or being lightly constructed; easy to do, trifling; quick, agile.
    • If you imagine two sub-atomic particles recognising (i.e. relevating) one another they might experience it as: together we make ourselves exist.
    • I once wrote a paper (with a colleague) in which we invented the word sympoiesis to describe how creative collaboration makes an abundance of meaning.
    • Sympoiesis adapts the word autopoiesis (='self-creation') by changing the auto (self) to sym (='together').
  4. I used these ideas in an attempt to explain the myth of creation and number theory to a child.
    • this would be written for a children's book with two different levels of meaning (i.e. for both child and narrator/reader).
    • Each is cleverer than the other in different ways, so they could relevate their own meanings to/for each other.
    • I am sorry that John's page has too many words - it is a kind of brief. A 'sketch without pictures'. I did not attempt to illustrate anything as I am certain you guys could do it much better....
    • I set myself the (impossible?/unthinkable?) task of explaining how we came to exist without mentioning God <!!>
    • in mathematical terms, how can 0+0+0+0+0+0+0+0+ etc. =1?
    • But my use of the 3 creatures is a cheat because they were not there at the beginning (before '1').
    • It occurred to me that one way to transition from nothingness to somethingness is by "relevating" a smile (actors learn how to bring it up from below). This changes the grammar we choose to use.
    • When speaking we choose what feels right. Instead of seeing a drinking glass as half-empty we imagine it as half-full. We use an active tense instead of a passive tense. We generate contagious optimism from within and that will relevate positive opportunities.

Some More Keywords

Abductive thinking - A creatively interpretive mode of reasoning
Affordances - A useful word in describing how some designs work.
Agent - We use it philosophically
Alienation - Based on Karl Marx's theory of estrangement from the self (1844)
Allopoiesis - the process by which organizations produce something other than themselves
Answer-seeking question - A type of question (of secondary importance to designers?)
Apoptosis - The natural ability of cells to commit suicide when not needed
Attribution - We use this word in several important ways
Auspicious - Useful for describing creative, positive thinking
Auspicious reasoning - A less truth-based (more outcomes-oriented) way of thinking (download this article)
Autopoiesis - Literally means 'self-creation' (see also sympoiesis and apoptosis)
Bisociation - A term coined by Arthur Koestler
Bottom-up - Shows how grass-roots initiatives catalyse change
Business buzzwords - A list of useful descriptors used in industry
Care - Some preliminary notes on care in an economic context
Catalysis - A scientific term that can helpfully be applied to innovation / regeneration
Cellular logic - Notes and ideas on the systemic principles concerning cells
Climate Change Denial - How it works (and other related notes)
Comprehensiveness - An important feature of metadesign
Consciousness - The sense in which we apply it. (see also Organisational Consciousness)
Conservation - A term used in urban planning
Contagious optimism - Useful within a team context
Co-sustainment - A stronger alternative to 'sustainability'
Creative Democracy - Originally defined by John Dewey
Creative Ensemble - A non-solo opportunity-creating method
Creative Quartet - A Creative Ensemble in a team of 4
Creativity - Have we misunderstood it since the Enlightenment?
Debate - Political method of polarising, then choosing options.
Design - Defined here for our purposes
Designing miracles - Part of a longer process of creative thinking
Eco-mimetics - The art of being inspired by Nature as a system
Emulsifier - A metaphor for inspiring better teamwork
Entrainment - The natural processes by which things find accord
Entredonneur - A neologism that may usefully balance the word 'entrepreneur'
Feedback - An important factor in making designing work better.
Finding your element - A term used by Sir Ken Robinson
Fractal - Useful for making large systems more coherent
Holarchy - A way to understand complex systems
Intrinsic - Works in contradistinction with an attribute (Noun)
Intrinsic abundance - Another name for Fuller's 'constant relative abundance'
Invention paradigm - Re-thinking the genre & mindset of the inventor
Jeong - This Asian (e.g. Korean) word is difficult to translate into European languages
Keystone synergies - A term inspired by keystone species
Lýsingarháttur nútíðar. - Icelandic word loosely meaning 'grammar of now action'
The Lever - Some notes on this ancient idea
Levers for Change - A term coined by Donella Meadows
Languaging - Our name for a (cognitive) working style
Lemkinism - Our name for seeding change by inventing new words for certain important things
Manifold abundance - refers to our more complex model of innovation
Metabolism - links living systems with business and society
Metadesign - Always needs updating.
Metapurpose - Using purpose as a self-reflexive navigator
Negative Feedback - See feedback
Network Consciousness 1 & 2 - A useful concept inspired by Marvin Minsky
New Knowing - Our name for a (cognitive) working style
Ontology|See some notes on ontology
Optimism|See radical optimism and contagious optimism
Organisational Consciousness - Our own term (see Consciousness).
Outcome-seeking question - A type of question that invites more than theory.
Paradigm - Explains how the word evolved since Plato.
Paradigm change - A brief summary of our agenda
Positive Feedback - See feedback
Pragmatics - Deals with situated actions.
Pre-purpose - Latent opportunities may lurk in purposelessness
Pushing and Doing - Our name for a (cognitive) working style
Question-framing - Towards a new design grammar
Radical optimism - Seeks to create more opportunities
Relational design - A few notes towards a unified approach
Relational mathematics - Designing by focusing on relations, not things
Relevate (verb) - A term revived by quantum physicist David Bohm
Risk - - currently under development
Second Order systems - An interpretation of the idea of 'second order cybernetics'
Self-interest - Differentiating between common alternative meanings
Semiotics - Is important methodology for metadesigners
Serendipity - Is a concept that licenses optimistic action
Shubh-Labh - (Literally, 'auspicious profit') Indian term that moderates trading
Simple synergies - A loosely named (but handy) category of synergies.
Strategy - Some incomplete notes on this concept
Structural coupling - A term used by Maturana & Varela
Suboptimization|See richly inclusive mapping
Super-wicked problems - See also 'wicked problems'
Super-wicked solutions - Is just an idea
Sustainability - A dubious term that has lost almost all credibility
Sympoiesis - Uses co-creativity as a team bonding process
Synergy - in progress
Synergy-of-synergies - in progress
Systems Thinking - in progress
Team consciousness - in progress
Theory-practice 'opposition' - This misunderstanding urgently needs a radical remapping
Tetrahedron - A 3D form with special properties
Top-down - Discusses the declarative nature of hierarchal control
Trim-tab - A term used by Richard Buckminster Fuller
Ubuntu - An African word describing allegiances and relations.
Wu wei - The taoist notion of knowing how/when to act