#NewMacy Studios Act I: Re-defining Stability


  • Paul Paul Pangaro Carnegie Mellon University
  • Carlos Castellanos
  • Damian Chapman
  • Kate Doyle
  • Xiao Fang
  • Michael Lieber
  • TJ McLeish
  • Eve Pinsker
  • Erky Salvaggio
  • Larry Richards
  • Fred Steier
  • Mark Sullivan
  • Claudia Westermann


Pandemics, wicked challenges, Cybernetics, systemic change, ontological security, conversation, ontogenetic resilience, recursive feedback.


The #NewMacy Ecosystem emerged in March 2020 as the pandemic of COVID became the newest global wicked challenge. Since then little has changed in the fights against pandemics of biology and technology, racism and inequality, environment and economics. We invoke the original Macy Meetings, arising from recognition that understanding purposive systems is essential for avoiding failures at WWII scale. In the 21st-century, #NewMacy arose to catalyze conversations for action across disciplines, geographies, and generations, through systemic principles, processes, and communities, to enact productive responses from individuals and communities that could bring about change.

We acknowledge the rise of climate change and ecological collapse, authoritarianism and autocrats, tribalism and extremists, polarization and despairing. In that forbidding context, the development of productive explanations — and potential ways forward — present a wicked challenge. For example, “ontological security” suggests that individuals must perceive sufficient continuity in their world to find a sense of selfhood. This seems impossible for the human organism in 2022.

Our only option as humans is to change. So we shift focus to “ontogenesis”, new ways of becoming. To survive in a changing world we must embrace “resilience” in lieu of security. Hence we substitute “ontogenetic resilience” as our framing intention — and Cybernetics as key.

How might we practice ontogenetic resilience? We start by embracing the human as the basic unit of change. Conversation is the unifying process. We adopt a structure of design-led “studios” (breakout sessions), a reflection of ontogenetic principles: We identify cultural sites where ontogenetic resilience is needed and where we can pursue inclusive and recursive modes of experimentation, manifest by interconnected (“nested”) studio sessions convened by members of the #NewMacy Ecosystem.

These Nested Studios are conversations for action held in parallel within this 3-hour session:

a. Prototyping the Workshop / Fail-Fast-Cycles-to-Learn: A prototype of a cybernetic workshop in which participants work with shared problems and desires. We will model prototyping through a fail-fast-to-learn pedagogy related to cybernetic concepts of knowing through interaction, observation, and feedback.
b. Pandemic of ‘Today’s AI’: So much of today’s tech manipulates and distorts the world we share. Yet ‘Today’s AI’ could swing back toward our biological roots by presenting analog interactional frameworks as countervailing examples. Novelty and choice, transparency and conversation can become new design patterns in a collection of concepts and working prototypes that inspire positive change.
c. Radiant Circles — Cybernetic Musings on Resonant Forms: Through resonance, works of art and design are centering. In openness to expansion, they grant agency. They create closure and consummation, but never stasis. They are circular. Join us to explore how Gordon Pask’s ‘conversation’ as aesthetic experience initiates ontogenetic resilience.
d. Sustaining healthy communities in the midst of compound complexity: Given the ‘compound complexity’ of climate change and interrelated wicked problems, what forms of learning and innovation promote healthy human communities in sustainable ecosystems? Following Bateson’s insight that preservation provokes change, we discuss the limits to growth model, a Polynesian atoll, Louisiana farmers markets, and examples from participants.
Art as steersmanship. As Maxine Green showed, art looks at openings to alternative realities, makes the petrified world speak, sing, and dance, creates places for perceiving the unexplored, and thinking of things as if they could be otherwise. We invite a discussion of intimations of more desirable and multisensory social orders.

This session will produce provisional frameworks for understanding ontogenetic resilience and applying alternative arrangements between the individual and the systems they confront. We wish to bring forth new means for critiquing systems and planning for change. Full read-out of studio outcomes will occur in Act II on Sunday.