Changing forms of mediation

This morning I've been having fun using Clay Spunizzi's book to refine my understanding of the TIMN framework. Having been introduced to Activity Theory, I've been pondering "mediated action" and changing mediators as it applies to epochs of social evolution. I have yet to clarify the fourth phase that has been labeled "Network" by David Ronfeldt, but the Tribal, Institution and Market forms are getting clearer. Here's my first pass at how this is all coming together in my mind.

The activities within tribes are mediated by the tribe itself, as I explored in Tribal Activity Theory. The tribe's mediator get experienced as omnipresent. This supports the tribe thinking it is the center of the universe and anything beyond the tribe is a "no-man's land. To be excluded from the tribe is regarded as a "fate worse than death". The tribe's inclusion of deceased ancestors and nature spirits in this pervasive mediator keeps internal actions from becoming antisocial, divisive or violent. There is no escape from watchful eyes on all activities, as well as support, guidance and accommodations for their activities. The experience of mediators in rocks, trees, animals, and weather obstructs the emergence of rationality, objectivity and detachment from their surroundings. They are devoted to immersion in their immediate experience due to the mediation by their omnipresent unity. The tribe naturally accounts for acts of honor and dishonor toward its own tribal members, traditions and roles. By taking actions to honor the honorable and dishonor the dishonorable actions by tribal members, omnipresent ancestors and attentive spirits, tribal cohesion, stability and continuity get maintained.

Pervasive mediation of all tribal activities eventually loses its exclusive role. Tribes realize there are other tribes in that "no-man's land". This renders that outside territory as really somewhere beyond their omnipresent tribal mediator. The sacred bond with their land can now be invaded, violated and dishonored by those with no interest in cohesion, stability and continuity of the tribe. The time-honored activities for dealing with ever-present evil spirits do not stop these opposing tribes from acting dishonorably. The transition from pervasive to objective mediation has begun. Tribes develop physical weapons, defenses and trained warriors. Activities get mediated by allies and enemies as well as the traditionally pervasive mediators. The tribes are caught between two epochs. The institutional phase is making inroads into their "participation mystique" experience. They are losing their hold on being the center of the universe around which all of life revolves.

Objective mediation replaces pervasive mediation with the advent of walled encampments and protected cropland. Subjects observing objects become clearly separated from each other. Situations call for realism, pragmatism and rationality. The prior phase appears delusional, impractical and irrational from this epoch's frames of reference. It becomes possible for the rule of law to replace codes of honor. Administration becomes formalized which allows for expansion, colonization and empire building. Actions get recorded, filed alphabetically and referenced by clerks assigned by the division of labor into jobs. Actions get mediated by hand tools, powered technologies and specialized settings. They also get mediated by those with jobs to oversee, police or recompense the activities. The mediators are the opposite of pervasive. They have to be located, borrowed, acquired or stolen. Either you have it to use or you don't. You find out if it works for you or not, and if not, whether there's something wrong with you or it. There's tons of objectivity called for when objective mediators are used.

Objective mediation begins to fade from dominance with the introduction of design. The subjects begin to consider the objective uses, functions and work involved in using the objective mediators. The hand tools, powered technologies and specialized settings become more user friendly, functional and easy to use. The mediators get more done in shorter time or at less expense. The designers become more considerate of the users, laborers, workers and customers. There is now much more to be subjective about which eludes the "one size fits all" and "one right answer" solutions endemic to objective mediation.

Subjective mediation replaces objective mediation with the emergence of market forms. Designers become more empathic, sensitive to multiplicity and open to cognitive dissonance. Discoveries get made about different users' uses for what was assumed to be the correct and universal applications. New interactions arise as if the customers were the designers and the end users were consultants to the institutionalized and professionalized processes. Design and production activities get mediated by people the activities are intended to serve. Instability gets introduced into established institutions as the systems become far more responsive, innovative and exploratory. Objectivity now appears delusional, impractical and irrational from this epoch's frames of reference. The center of gravity shifts from inside the experts institutions to the market of highly subjective, individualized and contextualized users finding new uses and unmet needs on their own.

That's all for now. To be continued at a future date ...

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