living present

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The living present describes a much more dynamic present than the conventional view of the present as a point in time.

In the living present, the past an the future are not separate from the present. It is in the present that we are continuously constructing the future on the basis of the enabling constraints developed over time as our past (see path dependence). In other words, because humans have a unique capacity to call forth in themselves the attitudes of others they can know what they are doing. Knowing what one is doing immediately incorporates anticipation and expectation into the action of the present and it also immediately incorporates reconstruction of actions past, or memory, all as the basis of acting in the present. Anticipations and expectations affect what we remember at any point and what we remember at any point affects expectation and anticipation. One acts back on the other, forming the basis of action in the present. In this way, the movement of the living present is experience, having a circular time structure that arises simply because humans have the capacity for knowing what they are doing. There is nothing mysterious about any of this but it is made difficult to understand by the prejudice and the ""blinding"" power of our habit of excluding the future and past form our understanding of the present. (Griffin, 2002, pp 184)

This view of the present is consistent with the complex responsive processes view of human interaction, knowledge creation, and social behavioral psychology, where there is no split between psychology and sociology, the individual and the group. From the complex responsive process perspective, human interaction is circular, successive gesture-responses, reflexive (responsive), self-referential (referring to self) causality in which it forms and is formed by the interaction itself. From this perspective, meaning emerges in the present (knowledge creation), knowledge emerges from the social act of gesture-response in a process of communicative interaction.

Complex responsive processes, in the living present, are temporal processes of interaction between human bodies in the medium of symbols patterning themselves as themes in communicative action. These themes, with all their multiple aspects, are continuously reproducing and potentially transforming themselves in the process of bodily interaction itself. These themes are emergent enabling constraints within which individual and collective identity and difference are perpetually constructed as continuity and potential transformation.

The living present, instead of being a point that separates the past from the future, has a time structure. The present is opened up in two ways...

  • the present has the temporal structure of communicative interaction (see communicative interaction)
    • a process in which people negotiate and account for their immediate actions to each other in ordinary conversation with its turn-taking/turn-making, gesture-response structure
    • this temporal structure takes the form of gesture-response between living bodies in the medium of symbols in which meaning arises in the social act, not just in the gesture on its own
    • ...involving turn-taking/turn-making process
    • the communicative interaction process patterns itself as narrative and propositional themes, forming while being formed by bodily interactive communication at the same time, leaving behind the traces of history

  • the present has the temporal structure of communicative action patterns --
    • a simultaneous process of sustaining and shifting ordinary everyday power relations
    • official ideological themes, sustain power relations, thereby giving rise to the dynamics of inclusion/exclusion, which are associated with the evolution of unofficial ideologies that challenge the official ideology with shifting power relations, which form new official ideologies...

Stacey's view of the living present derives from other's views of communicative interaction and their views of the present --

  • (Mead, 1938) ""specious present"" - the forming present, the time structure of forming while being formed at the same time as the inclusion of the past and the future in the experience of the present
  • (Husserl, 1960) -- ""living present"" as ongoing potential and ""life world"" as the context
  • (Wittgenstein, 1980) ""the hurly burly"" of everyday life
  • (Shotter, 1993) emphasis on ordinary everyday conversation

Construction of the future --
It is in the living present that the future is perpetually being constructed. The constructive role of ordinary everyday communicative interaction between people is at the center of how organizations evolve.

Emergence of meaning --
Meaning is not simply located in the past (gesture) or the future (response) but in the circular interaction between the two in the living present. Meaning is emerging in the action of the living present in which the immediate future (response) acts back on the past (gesture) to change its meaning.

Source: (Stacey, 2001, fig 8.1, 171 -174)