Can complex change be designed, even predicted? What is preparednesswhen it comes to managing environmental transformation? I’m talking today about the phenomenon of turbulence, in human systems and in natural systems. Most of all, I am asking about the translatability of the term: can Leonardo’s images of vortices be transferred to descriptions of the revolutionary crowd? Can patterns in nature furnish ideas for meeting and meeting places? Is it possible to build algorithms of change into the arrangement of stable spaces?
To talk about turbulence is to enter the realm of metaxy, or the realm of the in-between. However, people who give metaxological accounts of society,emphasizing the constructive role intersubjective behaviours play in creating a shared sense of identity, rarely, if ever, think about the setting – the role that topography plays in choreographing human relations. Culture may be ‘situated between human nature on the one hand and the individual personality on the other,’ but turbulence is situated between the social and the environment: it brings the repressed environmentback into play.
New methods for quantifying movement forms, for analyzing movement patterns and for acknowledging the constructive role that irreducible complexity and errancy can play in the reclamation of the commons for the common good have exciting implications – for the emergence of new forms of ambience design, for new fields of interdisciplinary enquiry and for the release of long repressed societal fantasies about what matters – for ourselves and the future.
The west coast of Ireland is a good location to explore these thoughts. Galway has a cosmopolitan history of association with western and southern Europe. It is the portal to the Americas. Christopher Columbus thought sailors from Galway had come from Cathay! There is a strong environmental arts and eco-design community here, and the tumultuous Atlantic, which I am seeing in the wake of the centenary of the sinking of the Titanic, offer a forming topography that this should make this discussion of turbulence culturally legible – and enjoyable!