Knowing with New Media


Essential Ripples:

Divergence Convergence

Representing Meaning-making

Stability Plasticity

Ilya Prigogine,


Humberto R Maturana & Francisco J Varela,


Hans-Georg Moeller,


Don M Tucker,


'Living beings are characterised by their autopoietic organisation'

Maturana & Varela, 1998

It is essential, within the context of the Ripples' autopoiesis, to consider the circularity of stability plasticity . Stability, is 'keeping with what you know' and plasticity is 'learning something new' (Tucker, 2007, p. 99).

The Ripples model sees the existing mental architecture (what you know) as a unique individual structure comprised of visceral/motor memories, as well as a database of abstract representational symbols and concepts. Such a construction in the Ripples model refers to mental grasp-schema. The term 'grasp' signifies the stability of networked associations. The mental structure of an individual consists of a complex manifold of mental grasps that are activated by associative impulses of seemingly disparate grasps. The memories, visceral/motor data, representational signs and concepts are organised into an intricate construction held together by a schemata of associative grasps.

The plasticity (learning something new) of this mental-grasps schema signifies the potentiality for alterations. However,
the extent of the alterations and extensions depends on various contextual conditions,
the level of rigidity of the existing individual grasp-schemata and motivational drive.


An autonomous systemic structure is continuously modified through its interactions with the environment, but preserves the integrity of its original making.

Underlying factors that shape mental structures — grasp schemata

Systemic view and autopoiesis



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The notion of autopoiesis is integrated into the Ripples pedagogical model from the systemic view of life.

According to systems theory, the world is a network of natural and man-made systems which exist in continuous interactions with the environment. The systems 'construct themselves and their own realities' (Moeller, 2006, p. 16) by operating within spatial and temporal closures. Systems self-learn and self-adjust to the environment in accordance with their own individual making. The autonomous systems are also open to self-organisation toward congruous functioning within the medium of their existence.

Through their study of the phenomenon of self-organisation, Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela (1998) developed a theory of autopoiesis. In their theory, they categorised living beings within their environment as autonomous autopoietic unities. Autopoiesis, according to Maturana and Varela, is a recursive self-reproduction of a living system through its own elements, according to its interaction with a larger circuitous system. The concept of autopoiesis is tightly connected with Prigogine's view of self-organisation. They both come from biological science and refer to the self-maintaining chemistry of living cells.

In the Ripples pedagogy, these two concepts – autopoiesis and self-organisation – are drawn together to interpret the knowledge-production process.

These two concepts are synthesised into a theory of self-design, which entails that the knowing activities are self-designed as units of learning. They also result in self-designing as intellectual development of an individual. Self-design is actualised through divergence convergence and representing meaning-making feedback loops.