Fractal Variability Control System is an AI software system, a framework, and an interactive installation designed to promote natural dynamics in living systems and in machines. This approach is based on the study of dynamical living systems, where there is a correlation between resilience and adaptivity, on the one side, and fractal variability, on the other. Measuring fractal variability, therefore, can be seen as both a diagnostic tool and a feedback control mechanism that can show whether a system is being resilient and adaptive or biased and highly specialized. Without insisting on any of those states as an ideal, it can be interesting to see how we can modulate processes along this scale and the ethical and aesthetic implications of these different states.
This work is presented both as a software with open-source elements (for reuse by other researchers), as well as specific tools implemented in InfraNodus text analysis tool (to induce cognitive variability) or into EightOS physical practice. For instance, we used this approach when choreographing the Opening Procession at Gwangju Biennale in Korea in 2021 to give the procession dance a more natural, organic look, playing with the concept of resilience, exploring how we could translate it into physical movement and film.
Studies have shown that dynamic processes in nature show a very specific kind of variability that is fractal at its core. For example, change observed in natural systems — human body movements, cycles of evolution, patterns of propagation — will not be linear. Instead, it will consist of seemingly irregular differences: multiple small deviations will be followed by a few significant shifts. No matter what scale we look at — a short period of time (e.g. a few seconds) or a long period of time (e.g. several hours) — this pattern will stay the same. That’s why it’s called scale-free (not depending on scale) and fractal — self-similar across different scales. The reason is that systems that show fractal variability are known to be more resilient and adaptive, because they can operate at multiple scales and respond to a wider range of external impulses, maintaining their homestatic state.
Therefore, the more fractal something is, the more adaptive, robust, and resilient it is. There is a strong correlation between health and fractal variability. This insight about natural systems has many practical applications: from engineering to health. For example, heart rate variability (HRV) is known to show fractal dynamics in healthy individuals, so it can be used as a parameter for diagnostics and treatment.
I thought it would be interesting to apply the same principle to the bodymind. Can we induce fractal variability in our movement and cognitive patterns? What would be the effects of that? My initial hypothesis was that by instilling this kind of dynamics we can render both our perception and movement more adaptive and resilient. In the context of research, this means being more open to new ideas and producing a discourse that is more diverse. In the context of body movement, this means more variability in daily physical movement patterns and, thus, better level of adaptivity to the environment.
Gradually, I noticed that there were multiple other emergent properties that seemed quite interesting. For instance, the aesthetics of movement with fractal variability has highly organic nature, as it replicates what we consider “natural” because it implements the same pattern of change. I thought that such system could be used to choreograph “natural” movement in a scientifically correct way, where the “natural” comes not only from what seems to be so subjectively, but also from an objective perspective that can be described quantitatively.
Another important observation was that fractal variability measures can also be used to detect other states that are not less important. For instance, if we apply the algorithm used for detecting fractality in heart rate variability (DFA algorithm), we can get 4 distinct states of which only one is strictly fractal. The other 3 represent other types of dynamics of which each has a certain use depending on the context. For instance, repetitive movement with little variation around the mean is very useful for regenerative purposes (e.g. body shaking or binaural sound waves). If we apply this same principle to how we direct our attention and perception, we can also try to explore what it would be like to think in this way. Overall, fractality in itself is not the objective, neither it is a perfect state. It’s more of a perspective that can be used to explore certain aspects of the world and define them through the criteria that allow us to enhance and augment our vision of reality.
February 15, 2021
Koo Des (NSDOS)
Active, Dance, Featured, Medium, Methodology, Performance, Practice, Type, Urgency, Visual, Workshop