The holarchy of StoryAlity Theory
So, in one way, StoryAlity Theory (derived from a study of the top 20 RoI Feature Films) is really simple.
At its simplest, it means: Just make a movie that a lot of people will like.
But – there are many component ideas (or, memes) that make up the Theory.
Here’s what it looks like, as a holarchy of ideas.
Next Question: What’s a holarchy?
A: A holarchy is a special kind of hierarchy. It’s an idea from Arthur Koestler (1964, 1967, 1978).
A holon-parton is something that’s a part and also a whole. (This is my synthesis of Koestler 1964, 1967, 1978 and Feynman 1972, 1975.)
(So, an idea – as a holon-parton – is a whole idea, but it’s also part of a bigger idea.) In Biology, systems are holon-partons. You are a holon-parton. You’re a biological system, but, you’re part of many bigger social holon-partons (e.g. your family, the groups you belong to, and communities, and societies, nation/s, the global population).
There are Three Laws of Holarchies: (1) Holon-partons compete and co-operate on the same level, (2) they look to integrate with holon-partons on the level above, and (3) They look to command and control holon-partons on the level below.
This is how bio-cultural evolution works. These are just the laws of Physics, so I think EO Wilson was right in Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge (1998).
Here’s a picture of a holarchy of holons:
Here’s another (bigger) one: note how complexity emerges. (The higher up you go, the more complex the holon-parton gets – as it includes all the `moving parts’ below it.)
For more on holon-partons and holarchies (if you like that sort of thing), see:
Anyway, so StoryAlity Theory is a holarchy of ideas.
It looks like this:
Combine or `bisociate’ (another word from Koestler 1964) two adjacent ideas on the same level in the diagram above, and you get the idea directly above them. This is also called combinatorial Creativity (Boden 2004).
So – this is how Creativity works (provided that the resulting idea actually works, or in other words, solves problems.)
So StoryAlity Theory includes Systems Theory (or, Cybernetics).
This includes Chaos Theory (or, nonlinear dynamical complex systems). (see Gleick 1987)
Q: So, what’s a system?
A: It’s a black box, with inputs and resulting outputs.
Q: What’s inside the `black box’?
A: Like Brad Pitt yells at the end of Se7en, “WHAT’S IN THE BOX-?!!”
…Here’s what’s in the box:
A bunch of stuff. A Receptor (which receives information from the environment), an Alimentator (which receives energy from the environment). So for systems to work, you need (1) energy and (2) information.
Then the Correlator stores the information. The Accumulator stores the energy. The Homeostat is like `the brains of the operation’ and it works out (or, `decides’) what to do with both of those things (the energy and information). Whether to store it – or use it to do something. Or a bit of both.
Finally the Correlator sends messages to the Effector, which has an effect (a reaction, or an output) on the environment.
Pretty simple really.
It’s like a computer. For your computer to work (as a system) you need energy (say, electricity) and information (say, bytes of data, on the internet). The Correlator is like Computer Memory, and the Accumulator is the part that stores the electricity. The Homeostat is like the CPU (Central Processing Unit), and then the computer screen displays the output (or the effect on the environment). Also of course, there is a cooling-fan that removes excess heat from the computer.
A homeostat is like a thermostat on an oven – or on an air-conditioner, or whatever.
Anyway so that’s how Systems work.
You are a system.
So is DNA. So is Culture, and so is Society.
Lots of holon-partons, in a holarchy.
Sometimes there are self-coupled systems, like Society and Culture.
So the output of one becomes the input of the other:
This is why you get recursive positive (or, negative, or neutral) feedback loops. (Or, why some ideas, books, songs, and movies go viral.)
Why use Systems Theory in examining Creativity? (i.e. That’s just crazy-talk.)
In 2010 Hennessey and Amabile published (after doing a massive literature review) that what we need is an all-encompassing wholistic explanatory framework for Creativity. Not just examining and explaining Creativity in individuals, and in groups, but – from the innermost cognitive functions of the brain – through society and culture, and out to systems to explain everything. (Note: The Universe is a system. You are a system. An atom is a system.)
This is also why The Systems Model of Creativity (Csikszentmihalyi 1988, 1996, 2000) is important, if you want to understand why some movies go viral and others don’t.
Note the word `Selection‘ in the quote above from Csikszentmihalyi (1999). He’s talking about the Evolutionary Algorithm (Selection, Variation and Transmission-with-heredity). Aka, BVSR (Blind-Variation and Selective-Retention theory).
This is how both Biology (genes) and Culture (i.e.memes, or ideas, processes, and products) work.
The evolutionary algorithm. Selection, Variation and Transmission-with-heredity.
Combine two DNA strands to get a new individual, combine two ideas to get a new idea. Sometimes the new individual or the new idea don’t survive and reproduce. (In Biology, or in Culture. This is what Popper called falsification. If the theory of a biological organism is falsified, it dies. So too, ideas in culture get falsified and die. But some survive and reproduce, and that’s why some ideas, books, songs, and movies go viral in culture.)
By the way `survival of the fittest’ just means `survival of the fastest-reproducing’.
And in biology and in culture there is natural, artificial and sexual selection.
And if you want to understand more of this, read the excellent work On The Origin of Stories: Evolution, Cognition, Fiction (Boyd 2009).
Anyway – here’s a picture from Koestler (1978) of a holarchy of systems.
You’re like the `organism’ right at the top.
(This is also known as `human exceptionalism’. We’re not really at the top at all. The Universe is.)
But don’t forget – almost everything is a system, or a part of a system. (A holon-parton is a part and also a whole.)
So this is how ecosystems work. (Both biology and culture are ecosystems.)
Ecosystems are holon-partons, too. And you’re part of both of them (the biology and culture ecosystems, or the bio-cultural ecosystem).
That’s also why, it’s dumb to pollute the environment, and to keep exacerbating human-made climate change, and why we should save the trees, and stuff.
And that’s why, Everything Is Connected.
So, maybe the Buddhists are, kind of, right.
Anyway – so, that’s why StoryAlity Theory looks like this:
And, if you want to study this stuff more, read some of these fascinating books on Consilience.
Also, that’s why – the unit of culture, the meme, is the holon-parton.
Note that memes (ideas, culture) is at both the top and bottom of this holarchy below.
It’s a recursive nonlinear dynamical systems loop. (See Chaos Theory, e.g. Chaos by Gleick 1987, for more.)
It’s the evolutionary spiral, over time:
For more, see Evolutionary Epistemology (e.g. Popper 1963).
And that’s why – Csikszentmihalyi’s systems model of Creativity (1988) and Sir Karl Popper’s (and Arthur Koestler’s and DT Campbell’s) Evolutionary Epistemology are exactly the same thing.
They are just describing it in different words, and in different ways.
But in a nutshell, that’s How Creativity Works.
It works the same way in the Sciences, as in the Arts.
i.e. Evolutionary Epistemology.
Niklas Luhmann (1987, pp 46-7) talks about “selection pressure” in culture, i.e. the Sciences and Arts. And I currently believe Luhmann’s theory of sociocybernetics (1984, 1995) is the same things as the systems model of creativity (Csikszentmihalyi 1988, 1996), and evolutionary epistemology (Popper 1963, DT Campbell 1974, etc).
This `selection pressure’ Luhmann talks about is also what Van Peer (1997) discusses in the excellent article in Mosaic: A Journal for the Interdisciplinary Study of Literature, in `Two Laws of Literary History: Growth and Predictability in Canon Formation’ (1997).
And – given systems theory (cybernetics) and holon-parton theory in bio-culture (Velikovsky 2013, 2014), this is all, therefore: a Grand Theory of Culture.
In fact – it is a Grand Theory of Bio-Culture.
And, it’s all because: Consilience. Creativity = Evolution.
This may shock some people, but:
Creativity is Evolution.
It’s the `evolutionary algorithm’: Selection, Variation (Combination and/or Mutation), and Transmission-with-heredity.
It works the same way (structurally and functionally) in Biology, as it does in Culture.
Combine two holon-partons (i.e. memes, systems) to get: another one.
If the new one (meme, holon-parton, individual, organism) is `new and appropriate’, it works. If it is really appropriate, it works really well – and then goes viral… (or, in other words, is: the survival of the fastest-reproducing.) [Perhaps that is a better term than, survival of the `fittest’ – but anyway `the fittest’ in this sense just means the best-adapted – to the environment, in terms of `survival and reproduction’.]
(Note: Combing two `old’ (existing) organisms [holon-partons] – or likewise – two `old’ (existing) ideas [memes, holon-partons] doesn’t always work… When this happens, and it fails, see: falsification.
As Popper (1999) notes, if an organism is falsified, it dies. And if a new scientific theory is falsified, it `dies’. If an artwork (e.g. a screenplay, a film, a painting, a novel, a song) is falsified, it `dies’. If a new technological invention is falsified, it `dies’…)
So there is huge selection pressure… This is how the Systems Model of Creativity (Csikszentmihalyi 1988, 1996 etc) works. Only a small percentage of works can ever become `canon’ (i.e. judged `creative’, or `new and appropriate’, by the Field, or in other words, the Audience, in that domain.)
Thus – Behold, the Marvel of the Universe that is… Evolutionary Epistemology.
It works the same way, all over the Universe. Not just here on Planet Ocean (as Arthur C Clarke once called `Earth’.)
And, this `evolutionary epistemology’ business is also Why:
99% get de-selected… (or, `selected out’…!) No wonder that Charles Darwin (1859) called it `The War of Nature‘. He too was horrified by it all. (Though – he was enchanted by the beauty of things like entangled riverbanks, and rightly so. Ecosystems. Biophilia (the love of Nature). …What’s not to love?)
So it appears Nature (and Evolution, or the `evolutionary algorithm’) runs on: ecosystems.
And it appears that Culture too (and, not just Biology) is an ecosystem – that works, via systems theory, or `socio-cybernetics’… (!)
So – if 99% of movie screenplays get de-selected by this evolutionary process, perhaps, The Burning Question becomes:
What are `the 1%’, doing right-?
See the Top 20 RoI Films for some extreme examples of `What to do right’.
And so – What are the key `drivers’ of what gets selected?
A: Human Nature, on a grand scale.
And so anyway – that’s, the holarchy of StoryAlity Theory.
I kind of wish, it was all much simpler. It would be much quicker to explain to people.
It’s only when we examine the parts that make up the whole (or the holon-partons!) it gets complex.
Anyway – so all that’s why StoryAlity Theory (when, analyzed) looks like this:
Then again I guess – like Nobel prize-winner Richard Feynman said:
`If I could explain it in three minutes, it wouldn’t be worth the Nobel Prize’
Richard Feynman, (Nobel Prize: Physics, 1965)
I did once explain this thing (StoryAlity Theory) in 3 minutes. But I also suspect that, nobody who heard it in 3 minutes, had much of a clue about the details. So I think they made lots of mistaken assumptions – and jumped to a lot of possibly incorrect conclusions. That can happen a lot, when you try and explain something complex in a really condensed, unduly compressed kind of a way. (This whole idea runs on Chaos Theory, which is another word for nonlinear dynamical complex systems theory.) Unfortunately for me, the word `complex’ is in there for a good reason 🙂
By the way – the amazing genius Richard P Feynman invented the word `partons’ (1975) and, it means the same thing as Koestler’s word `holons’ – and, so – being a synthetic kind of a guy, I have synthesized it, into the word, `holon-partons’.
But – both `holon’ and `parton’ means exactly the same thing. And it (i.e. holon-parton theory) works the exact same way, across all these domains: Physics (both subatomic, and atomic), Chemistry, Biology, Psychology, Sociology, and Culturology… (Culturology is also known as: Memetics.)
And yes, `Culturology’ is a real word. (Seriously).
Maybe, see this awesome online article (with a Foreword by Professor Daniel C Dennett) – `The Ecology of Intentions – How to make Memes and Influence People: Culturology’ by Adam Westoby (1995) – for more, on all that. (i.e. on: `Culturology’.)
And – for more detail on the evolutionary systems (or, complexity) view of narrative and bioculture in general, see, this book chapter:
StoryAlity #132 – The holon/parton structure of the Meme, the unit of culture – and the narreme, or unit of story – book chapter (Velikovsky 2016)
And for a great consilience & creativity & evolution reading list, see:
StoryAlity #71 – On Consilience in the Arts / Humanities / Communication
Comments, always welcome.
High-RoI Story/Screenplay/Movie and Transmedia Researcher
The above is (mostly) an adapted excerpt, from my doctoral thesis: “Communication, Creativity and Consilience in Cinema”. It is presented here for the benefit of fellow screenwriting, filmmaking and creativity researchers. For more, see https://aftrs.academia.edu/JTVelikovsky
JT Velikovsky is also a produced feature film screenwriter and million-selling transmedia writer-director-producer. He has been a professional story analyst for major film studios, film funding organizations, and for the national writer’s guild. For more see: http://on-writering.blogspot.com/
Boden, MA 2004, The Creative Mind: Myths and Mechanisms, 2nd edn, Routledge, London; New York.
Boyd, B, Carroll, J & Gottschall, J 2010, Evolution, Literature and Film: A Reader, Columbia University Press, New York.
Csikszentmihalyi, M 1988, ‘Society, Culture, and Person: A Systems View of Creativity’, in RJ Sternberg (ed.), The Nature of Creativity, Cambridge University Press, New York, pp. 325–39
Csikszentmihalyi, M 1999, Implications of a Systems Perspective for the Study of Creativity in Robert Sternberg (ed) Handbook of Creativity Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
Csikszentmihalyi, M 1996, Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention, 1st edn, HarperCollins, New York.
Csikszentmihalyi, M & Wolfe, R 2000, ‘New Conceptions and Research Approaches to Creativity: Implications for a Systems Perspective of Creativity in Education’, in KA Heller, FJ Mönks, R Subotnik & RJ Sternberg (eds), International Handbook of Giftedness and Talent, 2nd ed. edn, Elsevier, Amsterdam; Oxford.
Dawkins, R 2006, The Selfish Gene, 30th anniversary edn, Oxford University Press, Oxford.
Dennett, DC 1995, Darwin’s Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meanings of Life, Simon & Schuster, New York.
Gleick, J 1987, Chaos: Making a New Science, Viking, New York, N.Y., U.S.A.
Kerrigan, S 2011, ‘Creative Documentary Practice: Internalising the Systems Model of Creativity through documentary video and online practice’, PhD thesis, The University of Newcastle
Koestler, A 1964, The Act of Creation, Hutchinson, London.
Koestler, A 1967, The Ghost In The Machine, Hutchinson, London.
Koestler, A 1978, Janus: A Summing Up, Hutchinson, London.
Luhmann, Niklas. 1987 Soziale Systeme: Grundriss einer allgemeinen Theorie. Frankfurt/M.: Suhrkamp.
Luhmann, N 1995, Social Systems, Writing science, Stanford University Press, Stanford, Calif.
McIntyre, P 2008, ‘Creativity and Cultural Production: A study of contemporary western music songwriting’, Creativity Research Journal, vol. 20, no. 1, pp. 40-52.
McIntyre, P 2012, Creativity and Cultural Production: Issues for Media Practice, Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke; New York.
McIntyre, P 2013, ‘Creativity as a System in Action’, in K Thomas & J Chan (eds), Handbook of Research on Creativity, Edward Elgar Publishing, Northampton, MA, pp. 69-83.
Popper, KR 1963, Conjectures and Refutations: The Growth of Scientific Knowledge. (Essays and Lectures.), Routledge & Kegan Paul, London.
Sadowski, P 1999, Systems Theory as an Approach to the Study of Literature: Origins and Functions of Literature, E. Mellen Press, Lewiston, N.Y.
Simonton, DK 2012, ‘Fields, Domains, and Individuals (Chapter)’, in MD Mumford (ed.), Handbook of Organizational Creativity, Elsevier Science, Oxford, UK, pp. 67-86.
Simonton, DK 2011, Great Flicks: Scientific Studies of Cinematic Creativity and Aesthetics, Oxford University Press, New York; Oxford.
Simonton, DK 2004, Creativity in Science: Chance, Logic, Genius, and Zeitgeist, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge ; New York.
Velikovsky, J. T. (2016). `The Holon/Parton Theory of the Unit of Culture (or the Meme, and Narreme): In Science, Media, Entertainment and the Arts.‘ In A. Connor & S. Marks (Eds.), Creative Technologies for Multidisciplinary Applications. New York: IGI Global.
Wilson, EO 1998, Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge, 1st edn, Knopf: Distributed by Random House, New York.
Suggested citation for this page: Velikovsky, JT, `The holarchy of StoryAlity Theory’, Storyality weblog, https://storyality.wordpress.com/ ,16th July 2014.