They are not eclogues. They are ecologies.

* The title refers to my misreading of the title of Guattari’s book multiple times on my bookshelf, so many times, in fact, that my brain has inscribed it as The Three Eclogues. He can sit next to Virgil on my shelf.  One meaning of eclogue is a “draft” or a “reckoning” so perhaps I’m not too far off, at least in terms of this post, or of a theory of composition.

So, I’m picking and choosing and synthesizing among this week’s reading about ecologies and ecosystems. Some of the texts are explained literally in terms of eating and pooping, and while that is interesting (as is the rate at which the speaker speaks in the video posted … wow. Can’t read a teleprompter that fast, can you? It must be accelerated in post-production … reminds me of my favorite YouTube channel, PBS’s IdeaChannel, but he also talks fast, so maybe this is a post-modern ethos and we really can listen and absorb that quickly, which makes me think about those speed-reading programs (like Spritz) that purport to elevate your reading speed to more than 500 words per minute by lining up the words, one at a time, at the optimal recognition point , which I would like to be able to use for this week’s reading, which seems excessive, but possibly I’m just jaded after finishing a case study and last week’s asynchronous work, as well as being tired after attending a conference and being behind on … well…. life**), I’m more interested in the metaphoric application of an ecosystem to my object of study, or to writing, as Peg Syverson does in her book, The Wealth of Reality.

**Did you read the parenthetical maroon textreally quickly, staccato-style, imagining quick edits and zooms? It was intended that way.

Anyway, Guattari, the Cary Institute and the Ecological Ecosystems Crash Course are all talking about webs of interdependencies of multi-variate organisms co-existing in nested complex systems that together, create an über-ecosystem we might call “life on earth.” Ecosystems are ways to explain things that are dynamic, in a state of flux, and whose outcomes/outputs cannot be fully predicted mechanically (or, I would add, computationally or logarithmically, even as our AI gets ever more complex and interwoven into the system). An ecosystem’s concern with distribution, flux, exchange, and transformation by invested adaptable members who are co-creating the system makes sense to view as a network, at least a very complex one, such as my object of study, larp. Computer networking and encoding seems to be to take as its object a replication of such natural world complexities and systems, in an effort to more closely map and mimic (and plan and influence) our quotidien life. Indeed, members of an ecosystem appear to continually assess its affordances and constraints, with their own survival and needs as paramount.

Excerpted takeaways from ecological ecosystems readings:

  • An ecosystem is composed of biotic and abiotic members (compare to actors/actants in ANT?)
  • An ecosystem has blurry boundaries (fuzzy gradients that bleed) and flexible dimensions, depending on what you are hoping to see (your research question, perhaps?)
  • The story of the source and transference of energy is the story of the ecosystem
  • Ecosystems can be measured in terms of their abundances and their efficiencies.
  • What began as a study in the hard sciences and is most commonly used in mass media to refer to environmental studies, has moved into nearly all disciplines, with analogies for “artificial” and “constructed” environments such as organizations (and games!)
  • Ecologies promote synthesis and integration, rather than fragmentation (Cary Institute); an ecologist is a “synthesis scientist” (Spellman). In fact, Spellman weaves in and among literature, poetry, art, parables, government statistics, and scientific inquiry to illuminate the concept of ecology; his chapters themselves are ecologies of texts.
  • Ecology [like rhetoric] has its roots in ancient Greek philosophy and the founding of the Western Tradition, fell out of fashion, and had a resurgence with the Enlightenment focus on scientific inquiry in the 18th century. The word “ecosystem” is more modern, coined in 1935 by Brit Arthur Tansley and adopted by Eugene Odum, the “father of modern ecosystem ecology” (Spellman 12-13).
  • Ecologies are fundamentally concerned with what is produced, consumed, and wasted. Another way of saying this is what is created, transformed, and dissolved.
  • Ecologies are fundamentally dynamic networks in that they exist only in the relationships, in the movement among the nodes, which operates according to protocols unique to each member, but translated into a working, mutually beneficial partnership.
  • Odum refers to an organism’s niche (which hearkens back to the affordances reading of Gibson) as its “profession” (Spellman 15) which has interesting rhetorical implications related to “job” and “work” and “membership” that might be fun to unpack later.

Clip from Spellman article re: homeostasis

  • Spellman says that homeostasis is a prerequisite for an ecosystem to exist, but Syverson problematizes this to a post-modern sense of stability as existing in a particular temporo-spatial reality and according to prevailing exigence (rather than as a stable “unity” without the system itself).
  • Ecosystems are comprised of nested levels of ever-more-complex members; here is one (though not all-compassing) explanation by Odum (as illustrated in Spellman): Screenshot 2014-03-25 14.36.00
  • Guattari defines three ecologies: the environment (or nature), social relations and human subjectivity (mental) and posits that they make up an ecosophy, or an interconnected network. Only by looking at all three, can we have any effect on the environment proper or enact a holistic methodology (24).

Guattari’s notion of combining levels of ecologies to include attitudes and beliefs and social dynamics, rather than mere material goods is very useful when looking at rhetoric, which seeks to change such beliefs in order to change behavior. I’m beginning to wonder if the three ecologies can comprise the rhetorical triangle, or a kind of three dimensional rhetorical situation, whereby action in one ecology crosses into another (the effect on the situation). Calling it an ecoSOPHY puts more emphasis on the knowing, and the wisdom, the “house-wisdom”, or the idea of, perhaps, the confluence of ontology and epistemology that becomes “common knowledge” or “conventional wisdom”, which can be the hardest to defeat in an argument.

The thought of an interconnected network of ecologies operating on the physical, mental, and social level … well, this larp walked into a bar …

 AND …. I now have my Case Study #3: an analysis of the affordances and constraints of the American Freeform Larp, Play With Intents techniques in creating the ecological ecosystem of its larp.

Can I just say how much I enjoyed Syverson? Want to read that whole book. When the Doctor picks me up in his Tardis and takes me to the future, that is.


“Definition of Ecology.” Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies. N. p., n.d. Web. 24 Mar. 2014.
Ecosystem Ecology: Links in the Chain – Crash Course Ecology #7. CrashCourse, 2012. Film.

Flower of Life 61 circles. Wikimedia Commons. Licensed Creative Commons Reuse.

Guattari, Félix. The three ecologies. London: Continuum, 2008. Print.
Spellman, Frank R. Ecology for Nonecologists. Lanham, Md.: Government Institutes, 2008. Print.
Syverson, Margaret A. The Wealth of Reality: An Ecology of Composition. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1999. Print.

Featured Image: A form of the “Flower of Life” hexagonal pattern (where the center of each circle is on the circumference of six surrounding circles of the same diameter) made up of 61 complete circles (making clear the way in which the pattern is constructed). Since only complete circles are used, the full pattern is only visible towards the center of the diagram.

One Response to They are not eclogues. They are ecologies.

  1. I love that you started playing with the text to facilitate a certain type of reading (yes, I did read it that way!). I’m sure it is frustrating that you realize you need to read more based on your interests and the needs of your project; however, welcome to the world of scholarship. It’s a never ending battle between “I need to read one more” and “stop reading and get writing.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *