# All human attention, perception, and action is built upon and from a deep, evolutionary ==substrate== > **Substrate** (noun): A thing which underlies or forms the basis of another; a substratum, a foundation. *Oxford English Dictionary* ==The gist of it:== Evolved human systems of attention, perception, and action are the *substrate* for anything and everything we do – artistic and management practice included. The *Field Guide* works to align Arts Management with what we are coming to understand about those systems, specifically: - [[#We are action figures]] Our attention, perception, emotion, sensation, and decision systems all evolved as action-seeking solutions to the problems of living. - [[#We act through affordances]] We can only take action with and through the *affordances* of our environment – the action-potentials available to the particular kind of animal we are. - [[#Our bodies have a budget]] Attention, perception, and action are all expensive, so our internal and social systems have evolved to balance cost with benefit and to cut corners when they can. - [[#We predict the present]] Emerging cognitive science suggests that our whole bodies – including our brains – anticipate experience rather than wait for it, with a primary directive to “[[Minimizing Average Surprise|minimize average surprise]].” - [[#We make sense and take action with others]] We have evolved to be deeply social animals who not only gather in groups, but also make sense and take action through groups. ==The longer version:== ## The World Beneath the World of Arts Management Arts Management includes an almost ridiculous variety of contexts and categories of cultural endeavor – from volunteer-led community choirs to fully contracted professional ensembles; from artist collectives who bring and share their supplies to multimillion dollar cultural venues that own and manage entire city blocks; from creative disciplines like written or spoken word to dance to music to painting to theater to heritage to handicraft to sculpture to montage to media arts. And yet, all of these diverse contexts share a single common theme: all of them are made, shared, and cherished by humans. And all aspects of Arts Management are therefore built from and upon the *substrate* of how humans work. This isn’t only true for the arts. In fact, every action, reaction, emotion, sensation, and thought you encounter, alone and in community, is built on and from [[A Brief History of Attention, Perception, and Action|500 million years of evolution]]. The “soft animal of your body,” [as poet Mary Oliver names it](https://www.themarginalian.org/2014/09/24/mary-oliver-reads-wild-geese/), is the medium through which you meet and make your world. Artists seem to know this truth, implicitly if not explicitly. Creative practice and artistic process have developed ways to explore the whole human endeavor – from sense to sensibility. Audre Lorde captured this more capacious practice when she wrote: > …as we become more in touch with our own ancient, black, non-european view of living as a situation to be experienced and interacted with, we learn more and more to cherish our feelings, and to respect those hidden sources of our power from where true knowledge and therefore lasting action comes. (Lorde 1977) Yet the human systems that surround, sustain, and connect the work of art – the systems that sociologist Howard Becker calls “Art Worlds” (Becker 2008) – seem to operate on more naive and narrow assumptions about the human animal. The formal organizations of people, money, and stuff that help produce, present, promote, and preserve artistic effort are imagined as entities of reason, intention, strategy, and practical professionalism. This reason-favoring view of individual and collective life is important, but only part of the story. Philosopher Mary Midgley captures this common error in Western thought when she writes: > The individual, according to an influential view spawned by the Enlightenment, is essentially a will using an intellect. This individual is still widely conceived as eighteenth-century sages conceived it, as active reason, asserting itself in a battle against passive feeling, which is seen as relatively subhuman – a merely animal affair emanating from the body. (Midgley 2011) Evolving work in cognitive science, neuroscience, anthropology, philosophy, and a range of other fields – as well as centuries-old insights from cultural and spiritual practice – describes a much more entangled world of human attention, perception, and action. ==The *ArtsManaged Field Guide* is built on the belief that any study, practice, or teaching in Arts Management should honor, include, and embrace lived human experience, in all the ways we might discover and describe it.== ## The ArtsManaged Substrate Manifesto Drawing upon the emerging discoveries of cognitive science and related fields, the *ArtsManaged Field Guide* is grounded in the following assumptions about the *substrate* of human experience: - [[#We are action figures]] - [[#We act through affordances]] - [[#Our bodies have a budget]] - [[#We predict the present]] - [[#We make sense and take action with others]] ### We are action figures Human animals are built for action. Our attention, perception, emotion, sensation – individually and collectively – all evolved as action-seeking solutions to the two primary problems of living: maintaining our internal systems within boundaries necessary for life, and engaging/enduring our environment in ways that keep us alive. As pscychologist and neuroscientist Lisa Feldman Barrett frames the science: “Your brain’s most important job isn’t thinking; it’s running the systems of your body to keep you alive and well.” Of course, we *do* think and feel and imagine and reflect. But this action-centered purpose and process of our bodies shapes what we perceive, how we attend, and when and why we act. ### We act through affordances The action figures of our bodies are not separate from our environment, but entangled within it. We are constantly finding and forging action-potentials in the world around us, even as we are constrained by those action-potentials. J.J. Gibson captured this entanglement by coining the term “affordances,” writing: > The *affordances* of the environment are what it *offers* the animal, what it *provides* or *furnishes*, either for good or ill. The verb *to afford* is found in the dictionary, the noun *affordance* is not. I have made it up. I mean by it something that refers to both the environment and the animal in a way that no existing term does. It implies the complementarity of the animal and the environment. (Gibson 1977) This conversational relationship between animal and environment is essential to understanding our work in the world. ### Our bodies have a budget We take action, and we find and forge affordances for action, with constrained internal resources. As Barrett describes the accounting: > Your brain runs your body using something like a budget. A financial budget tracks money as it’s earned and spent. The budget for your body tracks resources like water, salt, and glucose as you gain and lose them. Each action that spends resources, such as standing up, running, and learning, is like a withdrawal from your account. Actions that replenish your resources, such as eating and sleeping, are like deposits. (Barrett 2020) Our body’s ability to spend and replenish this budget has also shaped our evolution, leading to frugal and time-tested approaches to the complex problems of living. Among these are “shortcuts” in our attention and perception systems (sometimes called “bias,” but unfairly so), as well as significant constraints in what we actually perceive and process in the first place. As Mary Midgley puts it: > All perception takes in only a fraction of what is given to it, and all thought narrows that fraction still further in trying to make sense of it. This means that what we see is real enough, but it is always partial. And a good deal of the narrowing is within our own control. (Midgley 2011) Human evolution also found and favored social coordination and action as one solution to the body budget problem. By thinking and working in groups, we can combine and share body budgets and collectively reshape our environments to help us thrive. Annie Murphy Paul, among others, describes human cognition as an “extended mind” that includes not only each individual but also other people and the symbol- and resource-laden aspects of our environment (Paul 2021). ### We predict the present Things get weird (and rather wonderful) when we explore *how* our human cognitive systems manage all of the above: perceiving and attending toward action, finding and forging affordances, and balancing the body budget. A growing flow of inquiry suggests that we do so through prediction – not waiting for sensory signals to arrive and be processed, but rather anticipating what those signals will be. What Karl Friston calls “Active Inference” (Friston et al 2009) and Andy Clark calls “Predictive Processing” (Clark 2015) describes the human animal as an imagination machine – not just in relation to our future, but in our present moment. A large portion of your current lived experience, according to these theories, is imagined by your body, with sensory inputs providing error correction on that imagining. To stay alive and to thrive, these theories suggest, the primary directive of our attention, perception, and action systems is to "[[Minimizing Average Surprise|minimize average surprise]]." ### We make sense and take action with others Human beings have evolved to be deeply social animals, sharing and distributing the problems of living across a community. Thinking and acting in groups both amplifies the action-focused, affordance-seeking, and prediction-generating abilities described above, while also solving (or at least mediating) the challenge of the body budget. ## Connection and Extension to Arts Management While conceptually challenging, these approaches unlock a world of mysteries about how our bodies work in the world, alone and together. They also reframe a wide array of human action – from language to symbols to learning to culture to ritual to creative expression – as forms of communal uncertainty reduction. These theories also redefine our relationship with the future, suggesting (as many spiritual practices already accept) that there is no existing future that we move into, but rather a present moment and a cloud of possibilities, probabilities, and uncertainties that might constitute what’s next. This view forces a rethink on what we’re “planning” when we plan, and how our individual and collective orientations to the future might vary across individuals, across groups, and across time. The world we experience is not, through this lens, a complete and comprehensive representation, but rather, as Clark puts it, “a world parsed for action, pregnant with future, and patterned by the past” (Clark 2015). All of this substrate has a direct relevance and relation to Arts Management. When we form organizations, animate teams, track resources, connect audiences, raise money, and produce creative work, we do so as human animals. Our arts businesses are built from and upon our individual and collective capacities to attend, perceive, and act. Further, this same substrate underlies the human capacity for creative expression. Artists and administrative leaders come to the same moment with the same tools, but use them for different purposes. The business of art and the art itself aren't separate and singular endeavors. They are both cut from the same cloth. This resource explores the “art worlds” we construct and coordinate through the ancient and anchoring lens of lived experience. --- ## Substrate Threads - **[[attention-perception-action|Attention, Perception, and Action]]** - **[[Minimizing Average Surprise]]** - **[[Emotions Are Bets]]** - **[[The Social Suite]]** - **Theory of Mind** (to come) - **Human Cognition** - [[The Predictive Brain]] - [[The Embodied Brain]] - The Situated Brain (to come) - The Social Brain (to come) - **Agency and Communion** (to come) --- ## Sources - Barrett, Lisa Feldman. “[Your Brain Is Not for Thinking](https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/23/opinion/brain-neuroscience-stress.html).” *The New York Times*, November 23, 2020, sec. Opinion. - Becker, Howard S. *Art Worlds*. 25th anniversary edition. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008. - Clark, Andy. *Surfing Uncertainty: Prediction, Action, and the Embodied Mind*. New York: Oxford University Press, 2015. - Friston, Karl J., Jean Daunizeau, and Stefan J. Kiebel. “Reinforcement Learning or Active Inference?” *PLOS ONE* 4, no. 7 (July 29, 2009): e6421. - Graziano, Michael. “A New Theory Explains How Consciousness Evolved.” The Atlantic, June 6, 2016. [https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2016/06/how-consciousness-evolved/485558/](https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2016/06/how-consciousness-evolved/485558/). - Lorde, Audre. “Poems Are Not Luxuries.” *Chrysalis, a Magazine of Women’s Culture*, no. 3 (March 1977): 7–9. - Midgley, Mary. *The Myths We Live By*. 1st Edition. Abingdon, Oxon ; New York: Routledge, 2011. - Paul, Annie Murphy. *The Extended Mind: The Power of Thinking Outside the Brain*. Boston, MA: Mariner Books, 2021. ## Tags (click to view related pages) #substrate #sapling