UTF: The Hopeychattybits – Nora Bateson

Momotempo · Unsee The Future: The Hopeychattybits – meeting Nora Bateson

Timo Peach meets artists, solarpunks and changemakers re-imagining the stories we think we're in.

In the fourth of this first series Momo meets 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 creative she is the founder of Warm Data and the Warm Data Lab bringing together a team of international thinkers, scientists and artists to innovate a form of inquiry, which Nora coined “Transcontextual Research” Based on the question: “How we can create a context in which to study the contexts?”

From her first book Small Arcs of Larger Circles she has developed a very personal approach to the study of systems and complexity to explore a process she observes as “sym-mathesy” – how living entities evolve when interacting with each other in a shared context of learning. 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.

She says: “Great stories, great music, great art, great love, great ideas – have tension, incongruity, paradox. This era of change, breakdown, breakthrough is going to require a form of play that allows for epist-emological confusion as old ways of perception twist into new presuppositions.”

She also says: ““In the fissures where the sharp edges of our fragmentation have cut through the tissue of togetherness and left it to bleed, the patterns of our perception crave play.”





“Systems therory came in in the 50s and 60s and prior to that most indigenous cultures in the world have been using a process of perception that looked at relationships that later systems theorists turned into a theory. But for the last couple ofhundred years, all of us inthe world of industry have been trained to see the world as a kind of machine. Even our lives are a kind of factory.”

“It’s all very linear. The causality is linear, the language is linear, the dream is linear.”


On the lifeboat story:
“I’ve always hated the exercise. Because it gets the questions all going in the wrong direction.”


“We’re in a moment where we’re facing all kinds of crises. So the need for people to come together and explore ways to explore and imagine how they’re going to find a way through things together is so important.”


“Since we started this conversation five minutes ago, we’re discovering who we are with each other. There is this intimate realm that’s not only intimate but infinite.”

 “Trying to come up with a methodology in itself is a negation of the potentiality. The question I’m exploring in my work is: How can we nourish the flexibility we don’t yet know we’re going to need?”


“Do I end at this skin? Or do I extend into my ideas and my ancestry and my language and my microbiome… Who am I? How do I know where I stop and start and where my culture stops and starts? Because there’s no stop and start.”


“The robot world is coming at us from multiple directions at once. It’s in the grocery store, it’s in the finance, its in the health system, it’s in the school, its the way we think about parenting its in the way we talk about how to get successful, it’s in the way we think about what personal development is… it’s e v e r y w h e r e. When you get multiple impressions of a singular set of patterns they begin to reinforce each other. And we’re getting this reinforced from every direction. We have to look at the relational process. The thing is not the thing. You are not you. You are a set of relationships that go out wildly in all directions – and that’s uncomfortable.”

 “We have so much shared that comes from context.”


“When you share an illusion, that’s so much more potent than sharing something that is real. Because it can continue to move and shift and shape.”


“I think we’re going to have to rethink overwhelm. Because we are overwhelmed. And there’s nothing more overwhelming than a whole lot of consequences from misunderstanding the actual rhythms and patterns of life and creating a whole lot of incongruity that is disrupting everything – that is exhausting. Where as if you can perceive the way that relationships are moving then you can respond to it in ways that cause far less destructive consequences. It’s far less exhausting.”


“Art is really important. because it pushes the way you are perceiving, it pushes edges of your understanding. And that’s really important because it makes you think about how you are thinking it makes you perceive about how you’re perceiving. And so the second we start to do that we get a little bit of leverage in your matrix. And then you can realise – aha! – there is a matrix!”


“These patterns and habits of perceiving become so familiar that we start to think that they’re real. And we can’t imagine that they might just be one possible narrative, one possible explanation, one possible expression. Why do we have to measure everything?”


“The complexity of the child. The multiple contexts in which that child is learning to be in their world. There are many children who learn to hold back, for many reasons, and then we say: “they’re not very developed”.”


“With affection for life, you come into a story and say: Let’s figure this out. We’ll find a way.”


“Affection for life means you’re willing to get down in the dirt and stay up all night in the blood and the vomit and still have affection for life. People often trivialise love.”


“The underlying premise of the IBI is to address and experiment with how we perceive. Our work is to look in other ways so that we might find other species of information and new patterns of connection not visible though current methodologies. We call this information “Warm Data”.

“Interesting phenomena occur when two or more rhythmic patterns are combined, and these phenomena illustrate very aptly the enrichment of information that occurs when one description is combined with another.” Gregory Bateson


“Living systems are a constant combining of multiple forms of communication and interaction between organisms. While it may be possible to point to some of the first order combining and communications in living systems, the second and higher orders of communication remain unseen, inseparable, undefinable, and crucial to the trajectories and aesthetics of ongoing vitality.”



The lifeboat story >

The Bateson Institute >
“Inspired by Batesonian concepts, the IBI furthers the research on transcontextuality and how interactions in complex, living systems can be understood and positively influenced.”


Aphanipoiesis – unseen + becoming.
“There’s real hope here.”



Garrett Hardin >

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