July 25, 2015

Stable Patterns in a changing social field

It is always easy to make a pattern unstable, but much harder to determine if it is truly stable.
– Daniel Richard Durkin*

In a dynamic environment, stable patterns will nonetheless emerge, as will for example, hexagonal columns in a pot of boiling water.

In the Decay of Turbulence video, when stimulus of turbulence is removed in a fluid medium, disparate elements coalesce into vortices, coalescing into still larger, cooler, more slowly rotating vortices:

– It Happened One Night –

Something happened during the night, after I took in this concept. The next day I began to experience viscerally the interactions among people-as-vortices, circling, gravitating, dancing, coalescing — in an evolving relational scenario, first among two radio show co-hosts and their guests that I heard when I woke up, then as I felt in interactions with students through the day.

I wonder what you will experience? Imagine the concept of tornado (vortex) people sweeping across a social landscape, watch the video, maybe sleep on it, see what happens.

In a moving fluid and perhaps in an evolving social field, form and number are critical factors in determining the nature of what happens:

A ring arrangement of 2, 3, 4, 5 or 6 vortices is stable.

A ring of seven vortices is neutrally stable if there is no boundary, but unstable if there is a boundary.

A ring of 8, 9, 10 or more vortices is unstable.

It is fun to imagine that (socially dynamic) relational arrangements among 2-6 people are stable etc., as above, and it might be helpful toward inquiry. Would this mean that arrangements among 10 people are therefore always unstable?

Similarly to nodes in a social network, the vortices might be people or groups, so any number of people could be interacting in a stable pattern, but at various levels and in various groups, so that the vortex (node) number is not greater than six or seven during periods of stability.

Also, people and groups can interact, if only briefly, in an unstable pattern (ships passing).

*Experiments on 2D vortex patterns in a Malmberg-Penning Trap with a Photocathode