• nora Bateson International Bateson Institute


systems change, symmathesy, warm data, abductive process, anticipatory systems, transcontextual mutual learning, aphanipoiesis, Bateson, complexity, transformation, emergence





The multiple entities of a living system are always mutually responding to the shiftings of each other in ways that constitute both stability and change. It may be possible to name the changes that form, but before such naming, deeper abductive possibilities have already begun to quicken. Gregory Bateson sometimes described abduction as the way one context describes another. Charles Sanders Peirce more often described it as a way to hypothesize between contexts.

A New Word to Describe an Aspect of Living Process: Aphanipoiesis

Pathology and vitality in living systems may be observable and describable; however, the ways in which they come to occur are at least in part unseen. “Insidious” describes dangerous outcomes that “creep up” through the combination of unseen contributing processes. But a way to describe a parallel but opposite process, by which vitality, healing, and creativity come into being by the coalescence of multiple unseen factors, is lacking. 

Aphanipoiesis (n.) combines two words from ancient Greek to describe this way in which life coalesces toward vitality in unseen ways. (Aphanis comes from a Greek root meaning obscured, unseen, unnoticed; poiesis is from one meaning to bring forth, to make.) Other words which also carry the root aphanis include phantom, diaphanous, and phenomenon, while the root poiesis is familiar from the word poetry, along with Maturana and Varela’s autopoiesis.

Hypothesis and Aphanipoiesis

According to Peirce, abduction is the process of forming an explanatory hypothesis and is the only logical operation which introduces any new idea.

Central to abductive process is the notion of hypothesis. But what does a hypothesis say about the anticipatory systems of perception of any given observer? In noticing aphanipoiesis, it becomes relevant to explore the realm of unseen contributors coalescing to produce the foundations of hypothesis itself. Hypothesis is limited by pre-existing anticipatory patterns. If one listens only for what one knows to listen for, that is what will be heard. In the study of aphanipoiesis, hypothesis is an indicator of those pre-habituated perceptions through which new information will be filtered. Familiarity with something in one context enables a kind of description of another context to become a basis for experiencing newness. A new flavor is explored through the experience of known flavors; a new form of music is explored through the understanding of other forms. Ultimately, abductive process becomes a zone of untamed, unnamed, unseen, and essential contributors to what may later be called emergence.

Keywords: abductive process, anticipatory systems, transcontextual mutual learning, aphanipoiesis

Author Biography

nora Bateson, International Bateson Institute

Nora Bateson

Nora Bateson:

Filmmaker, writer, educator. lecturer President of the International Bateson Institute, Founder of Warm Data and Warm Data Labs,  Sweden, USA,

Nora Bateson, is an award-winning filmmaker, research designer, writer and educator, as well as President of the International Bateson Institute based in Sweden. Her work asks the question “How we can improve our perception of the complexity we live within, so we may improve our interaction with the world?”. An international lecturer, researcher and writer, Nora wrote, directed and produced the award-winning documentary, An Ecology of Mind, a portrait of her father, Gregory Bateson. Her work brings the fields of biology, cognition, art, anthropology, psychology, and information technology together into a study of the patterns in ecology of living systems. Her book, Small Arcs of Larger Circles released by Triarchy Press, UK, 2016 is a revolutionary personal approach to the study of systems and complexity, and the core text of the Harvard University LILA program 2017-18. Her new book, Warm Data, will be released in 2021 by Triarchy Press. Nora was the recipient of the 2019 Neil Postman Award for Career Achievement in Public Intellectual Activity.

The IBI integrates the sciences, arts and professional knowledge to create a qualitative inquiry of the integration of life. Nora is the president of the International Bateson Institute, directing research projects that require multiple contexts of research. interdependent processes. Asking, “How we can create a context in which to study the contexts?” An impressive team of international thinkers, scientists and artists have been brought together by the IBI to generate an innovative form of inquiry, which Nora coined “Transcontextual Research” and the corresponding new form of information she dubbed: “Warm Data”. A group process created by Nora, called the ‘Warm Data Lab’ has been the public outreach model of this research. Over 1000 groups around the world have participated in Warm Data Labs, in over 40 countries, held by more than 600 certified Warm Data hosts. The Warm Data Lab is designed to assist in developing the ability to perceive complexity. In 2020 Bateson redesigned the Warm Data Lab for online use, called People Need People (online).

In addition Bateson is also credited with the innovation of the neologism "symmathesy," and the corresponding theoretical essay bearing the same title. Bateson defines this neologism as "An entity composed by contextual mutual learning through interaction. This process of interaction and mutual learning takes place in living entities at larger or smaller scales of symmathesy."

As an educator she has developed curricula for schools in Northern California, and produced and directed award winning multimedia projects on intercultural and ecological understanding. Her work, which has been presented at the world’s top universities, is described as “offering audiences a lens through which to see the world that effects not only the way we see, but also the way we think”. Nora’s work in facilitating cross-disciplinary discussions is part of her research into what she calls, “the ecology of the conversation.”Her speaking engagements include keynote addresses and lectures at international conferences and universities on a wide range of topics that span the fields of anti-fascism, ecology, education, the arts, family therapy, leadership and many more aspects of advocacy for living systems-- she travels between conversations in different fields bringing multiple perspectives into view to reveal larger patterns.

    Other Memberships and awards: Board Member: Tallberg Foundation, Royal Society of Arts fellow, Club of Rome full member, Fellow of Lindsifarne, Board member Bateson Idea Group (BIG), Board member Human Potential Foundation, Awards: Sustainable Thompkins Ecology Award, Winner Spokane Film Festival, Winner Santa Cruz Film Festival, Media Ecology Award.  


2022-02-24 — Updated on 2022-02-24