Participatory Sense-making and Steering of Complex Adaptive Systems

At Synthesis @ ASU Phoenix, we’ve built techniques for composing responsive media spaces for improvisatory events in which people can collectively steer richly structured visual, sonic, or tangible physical media.

Synthesis @ ASU and its predecessor Topological Media Lab (2001 – 2013) have created rich movement-modulated media spaces in which we could freely invent and coordinate sense-making activity via gesture, voice, images, sounds, or generally physical activity in large or intimate spaces.

We have made a kit of theater-grade scenographic technologies with realtime media and are developing techniques for composing not pre-scripted events, but for conditioning live events in which people can act freely without constraint on their intention or mode of expression.  The goal is to augment and enrich the range of expression available to the “inhabitants” of these events.  It’s important to add that our free-form multi-modal environments  include all the usual “off-the-shelf” tools of representation and interaction (web browsers, Skype, Matlab, whiteboards, charcoal and paper, post-its, role-playing games, body-storming, etc.)

In collaboration with CECAN’s international partners, we want to evolve our techniques and our systems toward meeting different models and scenarios of participatory engagement with social impact around the world.


Value Proposition for Participatory Steering of Urban Systems

Notes on Lifescale Prototyping and Participatory Steering of Complex Adaptive Systems

ASU Collaborators

Dr. Brandon Mechtley, Synthesis

Prof. Sha Xin Wei, Director, Synthesis

Ariane Middel, Ph.D, AME & CIDSE, Urban Infrastructures

Garrett L. Johnson, Ph.D, Synthesis

Jonathan Bratt, Ph.D, Geography

Connor Rawls, Synthesis

International Collaborators:

CECAN, Centre for the Evaluation of Complexity Across the Nexus (CECAN), University of Surrey

Dr. Alex Penn, Senior Research Fellow, CECAN, University of Surrey UK.

Prof. Petra Ahrweiler, CECAN, Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, Germany.

Dr. Jesus Mario Siqueiros-García, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México,  IIMAS and LANCIS, UNAM Mexico.

Dr Alex Smajgl, Managing Director, Mekong Region Futures Institute (MERFI), Bangkok Thailand; Managing Director, Sustainable Futures Institute Australia (SFIA), Melbourne, Australia.

Dr. Beth Cullen, Research Fellow, Monsoon Assemblages (Chennai, Dhaka, and Yangon), University of Westminster.

Ryuta Aoki, Concept Designer, CEO Volocitee Inc., Co-CEO, TEDxKids@Chiyoda, Director ALIFE Lab.


12-14 February 2019, Surrey UK

CECAN Workshop: New Approaches to the Participatory Steering and Evaluation of Complex Adaptive Systems

23-26 April 2019, ASU USA

Lifescale Prototyping ParticipatorySteering of Complex Systems