This post is part of the Creative Life Curation project. You can find more details about the project in the previous articles below:

My primary interest is located in the intersection between Knowledge,  Creativity, and Adult Development. I roughly use Creative Life to name this focus.

It’s clear that I don’t want to develop a general framework about adult development for everyone. I only consider Knowledge Workers and Creators as my target audience.

The Brief of Curative Life Curation

The Creative Life Curation project aims to adopt Curativity Theory to understand Creative Life. The diagram below is the basic model of the Creative Life Curation framework.

The above framework highlights two tendencies:

  • Subjectification - Experience 1: turning the world into a person’s experience.
  • Objectification - Experience 2: turning the person’s experience into artifacts for the world.

On Nov 14, 2022, I introduced a semiotic system diagram for the Creative Life Curation project. The core of the diagram is the following five units of analysis:

Based on the above five units of analysis, I developed a semiotic system diagram to represent the details of the Creative Life Curation framework.

The new semiotic system diagram was designed with the following basic structure.

The content of the diagram is formed with three parts:

  • Subjectivity:  Turning potential action opportunities into actual actions
  • Subjectification: Turning the world into a person’s experience
  • Objectification: Turning the person’s experience into artifacts for the world

The above discussion mentions five Units of Analysis. I also made a distinction between Creators and Curators. These two roles are assigned to different Units of Analysis.

  • Creators: Creative Life (Action, Project)
  • Curators: Creative Container (Journey, Landscape, Lifescope)

What does this distinction mean?

It means that "Action" and "Project" are related to Creators. These two Units of Analysis are necessary for Creators.

However, "Journey", "Landscape", and "Lifescope" are only useful to Curators, they are not necessary for Creators.

This distinction is inspired by sociologists' distinction between Actors and Researchers. While Actors don't need to consider producing scientific sociological knowledge, researchers have to do it.

The Creative Life Curation framework focuses on the Curativity of Life experience. All tools and methods are developed for professional curators who aim to 1) produce scientific knowledge for the public, and 2) help creators improve their creative actions.

We should notice that a creative person could be both a Creator and a Curator of her own creative actions.In this manner, she is running self-guided Creative Life Curation projects.

Actors and Curators

As mentioned above, the distinction between  Creators and Curators is inspired by sociologists' distinction between Actors and Researchers. While Actors don't need to consider producing scientific sociological knowledge, researchers have to do it.

In this article, I will follow sociologists' distinction between Actors and Researchers and develop a new typology of actors for the Creative Life Curation project.

I will start with the following diagram and move to a new model.

The above diagram is based on a diagram called Universal Reference. The Vertical group refers to the Degrees of Abstraction of “Knowledge”.

The “Theory — Practice” dimension is shared with the following pairs of concepts:

  • The “Heaven—Earth” dimension
  • The “Langue — Space” dimension
  • The “Episteme — Empeiria” dimension

The “Heaven — Earth” dimension is a metaphor that is a popular pair of concepts in Chinese philosophy. 天 (Tian) heaven, 地 (Di) earth, and 人 (Ren) humans, are three spheres of origin, 三才 (San Cai). This threefold structure of the universe offers a coherent and systematic approach to understand nature and society.

I’d like to use “天 (Tian) heaven” to refer to the high degree of abstraction of knowledge while “地 (Di) earth” is associated with the low degree of abstraction of knowledge.

The “Langue — Space” dimension is inspired by Ferdinand de Saussure’s structural linguistics. Langue and parole is a theoretical linguistic dichotomy distinguished by Ferdinand de Saussure in his Course in General Linguistics. Langue refers to the abstract system of language while parole means concrete speech. The “Langue” refers to universal concepts or vocabulary while “Space” refers to spatial structure and immediate embodied experience.

The “Episteme — Empeiria” dimension refers to Aristotle’s typology of thought: technê, epistêmê, phronêsis, sophia, and nous. According to Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, “At the beginning of the Metaphysics, Aristotle says that the person with epistêmê and the person with technê share an important similarity. There Aristotle contrasts the person of experience (empeiria) with someone who has technê or epistêmê.”

Six months ago, I contact Ping-keung Lui who is a theoretical sociological theorist. Lui aims to build a brand new theoretical sociology as a candidate for the paradigm of sociology. According to Lui, “There are three kinds of theories in sociology, namely, social theory, sociological theory, and theoretical sociology. ”

  • Social theories are speculations about the social world. They constitute the speculative project of sociology.
  • Some social theories are amenable to positivistic investigation under certain specific conditions. I call them sociological theories.
  • Also, some other social theories, being very ambitious, attempt to recruit as many as they can sociological theories supporting themselves. I call them theoretical sociologies. They compete against each other. The winner becomes the paradigm of sociology, and its supporting sociological theories become exemplars of the paradigm. In this way, theoretical sociologies and sociological theories constitute the scientific project of sociology.

Lui’s theoretical sociology and Semiotic System Diagrams are inspired by Saussure's structural linguistics.

The theoretical sociology I have conceived is an example: It has an ontology, a realism and an hermeneutics, each of which is by itself a cluster of interconnected keywords; and then there are some more interconnections between some members of any two clusters. Thus, a network of all keywords of a theoretical sociology is formed, and together with annotations of every keyword and every interconnection between keywords, the theoretical sociology is specified. Clearly, annotations are meant to guide us to read and understand the network of keywords. In fact, this network is the famous semiotic system in Saussure’s structural linguistics. As I have said early, he calls it language because innumerably many speeches can be made within its four corners.

Source: Ingold’s Idea of Making — A View from Theoretical Sociology (Ping-keung Lui 2020, p.21)

Lui used “Langue (Language)” to refer to his theoretical sociology while “Parole (Speech)” refers to all empirical sociologies.

I notice that all theoretical sociologies I happen to come across in the literature are each a speech, and usually a long one. But, in contrast, I conceive my own as a language, that is, a semiotic system in which innumerable number of speeches can be made within its four corners. Figuratively speaking, a semiotic system can be likened to a wetland in which innumerable speeches live and breed like birds. On the other hand, all empirical sociologies are in the first place each a speech, and if they can be made within the four corners of a certain semiotic system then they can be said to be supported and contained by the theoretical sociology that is represented by its semiotic system. Empirical sociologies are birds in that semiotic system as a wetland.

Source: Ingold’s Idea of Making — A View from Theoretical Sociology (Ping-keung Lui 2020, p.23)

The whole structure of Lui's theoretical sociology is represented in the following semiotic system diagram.

The structure of Lui’s theoretical sociology is a nested structure. See the diagram below. According to Lui, “The realism comprises a subjectivist structuralism and an objectivist stock of knowledge, while the hermeneutics is an interpretation and an analysis. Second, I shall present an ontology that nests the realism within its boundaries.” (p.250, 2016, Aspects of Sociological Explanation)

Source: Aspects of Sociological Explanation (Ping-keung Lui 2016, p.251)

We should see this grand theory as a dialogue between philosophy and sociology because “Ontology” and “hermeneutics” are respectable terms in philosophy, but “realism” — sandwiched between them — is not. Lui emphasizes that Realism is the sociological matter proper (p.251, 2016, Aspects of Sociological Explanation).

The third part of Lui's grand theory is Hermeneutics. In this section, Lui made a distinction between Actor's interpretation and Researcher's analysis. See the diagram below.

You can find more details in Three Paths of Creative Life and A Semiotic System.

Lui presents a typology of actors:

  • Actors
  • Empirical Sociologists
  • Theoretical Sociologists

If we consider the Creative Life Curation framework as a specific social theory, then we can add Curators to expand Lui's typology.

  • Actors
  • Curators
  • Empirical Sociologists
  • Theoretical Sociogitsts

The final result is the diagram below.

What's the major difference between Actors and Curators? See the diagram below:

While Actor only cares about Affordance and Projectivity, Curator also considers Curativity 1, Curativity 2, Curativity 3, etc.

  • Curativity 1: Turning pieces of Projects into a Journey as a meaningful whole
  • Curativity 2: Turning pieces of Projects into a Landscape as a meaningful whole
  • Curativity 3: Turning pieces of Actions and Projects into a Lifescope as a meaningful whole

You can find more details in A Semiotic System Diagram for Creative Life Curation.

There is also an implicit similarity between Curators and Theoretical Sociologists. However, the above Universal Reference diagram doesn't display it. We need to develop a new diagram.

Kant's Fractal Tree

I will use Kant's Fractal Tree to develop the new diagram in order to visualize the implicit similarity explicitly.

In the 2001 book Chaos of Disciplines, the American sociologist Andrew Abbott started an insight that claims many social structures look the same on large scale and on a small scale. He called this insight “Self-similar social structure” and applied it to discuss academic social science in general and sociology in particular. He also found there is a classical example from Kant, “…Kant obviously does not think there is an infinite gradation from absolute pure reason through some proportionately mixed varieties of reason to absolute practice reason. He has done something else. He has created what I shall call a ‘fractal distinction.’ The name captures the fact that such a distinction repeats a pattern within itself, as geometric fractals do…There are, of course, dozens of general sources on fractals…I have tended to focus on fractals that are nested dichotomies. There is no necessary restriction to this case; it is simply the most familiar and hence makes for the easiest exposition.” (2001, p.9)

The above diagram is adopted from Andrew Abbott and it represents Kant’s fractal tree. After reviewing Kant’s writing, Abbott summarized that “Kan has first split pure and practical reason and then, under each of those headings, has split pure and practical reason once again.” (2001, p.8)

Abbott also pointed out Kant’s approach is not a normal hierarchy, “…Kant has made a relational judgment at one level and then repeated it at the next…the relation of the general terms is recapitulated in the specific ones…This is not a simple hierarchy.” (p.9)

Further, Abbott claimed that the power of fractal distinction, “The concept of fractal distinctions not only proves useful in understanding the external location of the social sciences generally. It also provides an essential tool for understanding relations within them. Indeed, as I shall show, both the external and the internal structures are produced by the same mechanism.” (2001, p.10)

The above diagram shows an example of the fractal distinction of the methodological approaches. Abbott said, “For about sixty years, sociology has been divided into two broad methodological strands, usually called quantitative and qualitative. Put starkly, the quantitative position recognizes only those social phenomena measurable on univocal scales. The qualitative side attributes multivocality to all social phenomena and therefore denies strong measurability. This sounds like a simple opposition. But within each one of these strands can be distinguished ‘quantitative’ and ‘qualitative’ positions. On the quantitative side, for example, the admired ‘causal’ methods like regression contrast with the denigrated ‘descriptive’ methods like scaling and clustering. On the qualitative side, there are relatively formalized measurement procedures that are used by some sociologists of culture and by most practitioners of conversational analysis, while strongly interpretive strategies characterize much of the new sociology of science.” (2001, p.10)

What a simple but powerful heuristic tool!

Abbott focused on academic activity, we can apply it to non-academic activities. We can check if we can find the same fractal distinction in our domain, or use it to guide our journey of making innovation and finding new niches. We even can think about if there are other heuristic tools that present special comment patterns of hierarchy.

Four Types of Actors

Now let's apply Kant's Fractal Tree to the Creative Life Curation framework.

The above diagram redisplays four types of actors in a different visual layout. Now we can see the implicit similarity between Curators and Theoretical Sociologists.

I use "Linguistic Formism" as a label to describe Theoretical Sociologists, especially Lui's approach. According to Lui,

First, every empirical sociology (observation, description, or narrative about the empirical) can always be summarized and transcribed formally and abstractly into a network of keywords, that is, its semiotic system, the language in which it can be spoken out.

Second, the semiotic system derived from a particular empirical sociology is always able to support innumerably many possible empirical sociologies besides the particular one from which it is derived. In other words, turning a particular empirical sociology into its semiotic system is a liberalizing act—liberalizing all the hemmed-in possibilities for yet-to-be-actualized empirical sociologies. It will be seen shortly that the great Saussurean idea of semiotic system bridges the huge gap between “theory about some specific thing” and “abstract Theory”. But both Hughes and Becker seem to have missed this most significant point, and I believe the whole sociological community also.

Source: Ingold’s Idea of Making — A View from Theoretical Sociology (Ping-keung Lui 2020, p.10)

Lui also uses "empirical sociology" to refer to "theory about some specific thing" and "theoretical sociology" to refer to "abstract theory". He also illustrates the connections between the ruling paradigms, theoretical sociologies, empirical sociologies, and data, in the following diagram:

Source: Ingold’s Idea of Making — A View from Theoretical Sociology (Ping-keung Lui 2020, p.13)
In short, empeiria—(techne/phronesisepisteme)—episteme is a hierarchy raised by human capacities of the sociologists, theoretical as well as empirical, in the scientific pursuit of knowledge, that is, more specifically, the scientific project of sociology, whose centre-piece is technne/phronesisepisteme.

Every theoretical sociology (Tj, j=1, 2, 3, ...) must be supported by all known empirical sociologies (Ek, k=1, 2, 3, ...) as its exemplars, by which it is meant that none of them is a counter-example against it. (I usually say “T recruits all known E’s as its exemplars ...”) In order to confirm whether Ek is an exemplar of Tj, one needs to work at the semiotic-systemic level. While Ek is told almost without any exception as a speech, Tj is impossible to be specified by a speech since it is supposed to allow all Ek to be told within the four corners of its semiotic system (langue). But to confirm that this is the case one has to work out the semiotic system (a network of keywords) of every Ek, since only at the semiotic-systemic level can every keyword of Ek be verified whether it can be reasonably argued to derive or to be derived from the semiotic system (another network of keywords) of Tj.

Source: Ingold’s Idea of Making — A View from Theoretical Sociology (Ping-keung Lui 2020, p.13)

For the Creative Life Curation framework, Curators tend to use Units of Analysis to reflect on Actors' life experiences. There is a "frame" behind each Unit of Analysis. Curators work with Actors' life experiences and frames.

I use First-order Experience and Second-order Experience to describe two types of life experiences. While First-order Experience is directly given, it requires using Techniques to detective Second-order Experience.

Since Curators have to deal with Actors' life experiences, their frames have to be suitable for sensemaking with actions and projects. So, I called it "Ecological Formism".

The similarity between Curators and Theoretical Sociologists is "Formism" while their difference is between the Ecological approach and the Linguistic approach.

Culture and Science

The above diagram also highlights the boundary between Culture and Science.

The goal of Creative Life Curation project is to turn a person's creative actions into a social collective culture. I consider symbolic objectification as the final stage of this process. See the last row.

Name > Concept > Life Themes > Emerging Themes > Cultural Themes

In this way, we build an operational framework for understanding the chain of Creative Life Curation:

Affordance > Action > Experience > Theme > Culture

The above typology of actors highlights the significant meaning of Curators.

Curators are not scientists. Creative Life Curation needs both Creators and Curators.