The Individual as Collective: stimulated by the performance one has achieved
The content of this post has been collaboratively developed with Elizabeth Presa.
I ended a past post, Some General Off-the-Cuff Reflections on Stigmergy with the reflection: "as I paste all this jabber into my private wiki, I realized that stigmergy doesn’t have to be social, that is, the communication can be with oneself…" This got me thinking about the use of the process of stigmergy by and for the individual. I post to my own wiki (behind a firewall) for the purposes of archiving, but more so in order to further develop my ideas for the eventual compilation of my PhD dissertation.
By doing work in my wiki which I can then reflect on in the future, I am able to stigmergically communicate with myself. I got to discussing this issue with my PhD supervisor, Elizabeth Presa, and we quickly realised that there are some fundamental connections between 'auto stigmergy' and the creative/artistic process. That is, a fundamental component of this process is the reflection upon and the reworking of one's reifications.
These realisations prompted many more... If stigmergy seemingly works in relation to a single individual, could the workings of an individual have aspects in common with that of a collective? Would it need to for the stigmergic process to operate? Was this process in fact stigmergy or some other closely related phenomenon - if so, what is it?
I later came across this paper Artificial Ant Colonies in Digital Image Habitats - A Mass Behaviour Effect Study on Pattern Recognition which suggests that, "the self-organization of neurons into brain-like structures, and the self-organization of ants into a swarm are similar in many respects." This idea of the individual mind as a collective is of course not new, and our brains are composed of hundreds of billions of neurons as well as many varying components which to some degree specialise in various functions. So perhaps it should not be so surprising that stigmergy could function in relation to the individual mind as it does to the many. Perhaps a type of intersubjectivity exists between the many aspects of one’s mind in a similar way as it does between the minds of many individuals?
As any artist could attest to, one doodles, sketches, drafts and after a time, this work stimulates the emergence and gives voice to an idea that previously hasn't had the opportunity to find a material form. This is the stuff of inspiration, of the creative spark - what once wasn't, suddenly is… or rather, is suddenly becoming.
This brings us to serendipity (thanks Julen!). As I'm sure every artist (and probably most people) could attest that when the creative spark flashes, there is often something serendipitous about it - the result is unexpected and seems to be 'perfect', it 'fits just right', etc. In the context of a work of art, it is the serendipitous inspirational flashes that seem (at least for me) to draw together, kick start and breath life into what eventually may come to be a coherent work with a character and nature all its own.