Emergentia is medieval Latin for the verb emergere, or “bring to light,” but it more readily signifies the etymological root of the word emergence, which inspired the creation of this site. While trying to come up with a name that could encompass the aims of this blog in a short and relatively simple manner, I was struck by the various meanings we can grasp from “emergence” as both a word and a concept.
Most of us are familiar with its basic definition as the process of emerging, a state of coming into being, and on one level, this is what the blog Emergentia will deal with, the emergence of new ideas and thoughts in a range of fields: literature, art, history, and so on. However, its more obscure meaning as a scientific concept explored by Steven Johnson in his book, Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities and Software is what I had most clearly in mind when I chose it for the name of this site. In an interview with David Sims, editorial director of the O’Reilly Network, Johnson defines Emergence as:
what happens when the whole is smarter than the sum of its parts. It’s what happens when you have a system of relatively simple-minded component parts — often there are thousands or millions of them — and they interact in relatively simple ways. And yet somehow out of all this interaction some higher level structure or intelligence appears, usually without any master planner calling the shots.
This definition of emergence is how I would like to look at my own development as a separate, individualized part in a much greater whole. I hope that from the random thoughts and ideas expressed on this blog, there will emerge an order, a coherent body of work that can prove inspiring, helpful, and even challenging to others.
The other co-authors and I have thought long and hard about what we would like this site to encompass and so far we have outlined a few key components to the blog that we want to develop, but as time goes on, I am sure that some will be modified and new ones added.
Abstracts for various projects our authors are currently working on or those they have presented at conferences. Posting these abstracts online will allow a larger community to gain insight into our research interests and hopefully stimulate further discourse.
Analyses of major themes in the texts our authors are examining, whether it be novels, poetry, art, film, etc. We know that this is not the “perfect” system, but it was the only thing we could think of that can apply broadly over the various disciplines we are interested in.
Annotations of theoretical and critical works. We thought it would be a great idea to have an online annotated bibliography to provide easy access to summaries of sources in a number of different fields that can help facilitate the research process.
Prospectuses for papers or projects we are currently working on. Rather than polished abstracts, these posts will allow our authors to present proposals for ideas or questions they would like to explore further in a supportive, yet critical forum.
To conclude, I hope you have found the information I posted about the blog useful and are interested in joining Emergentia. Rather than focusing on our personal ambitions as emerging scholars, my co-authors and I want this site to allow for the emergence of something greater–The creation of a vibrant, online community, fueled by the synergy of our collective minds.
The above quote is extracted from a longer interview, which you can access here.
On a side note, I also have to thank Dr. Jason Tougaw from the Queens College, CUNY English Department whose senior seminar on Consciousness and Narrative introduced me to Steven Johnson’s ideas and provided at least some of the inspiration for this blog.