Resonance capability, continued

This post continues a line of thinking from previous posts on affect and resonance capability.

Affect is all about resonance capability. For instance, in teaching we say we want students to “relate to” or connect with the course content. We want them care about the subject matter or see some connection to their own lives or something that already interests them. In other words, we want the course material to resonant with the students.

For example, in everyday life, if there is a famine in South Sudan and we want other people to care about this problem and, if possible, do something, this means we want the famine in South Sudan to resonate with people, or with psychic systems. If something resonates with a psychic system, this means the person will have some kind of reaction, as in thinking about it–processing information about the famine.  The opposite of resonance is alienation, or the sense that the world no longer speaks to us; nothing moves us anymore (Hartmut Rosa).

Expectational structures or programs may change, which means learning has happened; new expectations are formed. For example, a student who develops a passion for Dante’s Divine Comedy after being introduced to it in a class (or anywhere) experiences a systemic change. S/he is now able to be affected by anything having to do with The Divine Comedy. The person might even say something like “The Divine Comedy changed my life.” He might travel to Florence to feel closer to Dante. Dante’s poem produces a “difference that makes a difference. ”

Events like a famine can also resonate with other social systems, such as organizations–humanitarian organizations, government organizations, religious organizations, etc. If there a disaster somewhere in the world and the United States government ignores it, this means the event has not resonated with that organization. There is no sense that a decision needs to be made.

Affect increases or decreases a system’s responsiveness. Brown and Stenner write,

Affect, as an emergent property of the encounter, takes the form of either an increase or diminishment of the finite individual’s power to act. This is described in the basic distinction between affects of “joy” or “euphoria” (laelitiae) that increase power or those of “sorrow” or “dysphoria” (tristitiae) that decrease power. What takes place as an affect (an emotion) is an ordering of the relations between bodies and between ideas that shows forth as a decision or a determination for action.

But we are more likely to think of affect as something that moves us, rather than something that diminishes the power to act. We tend to think of despair as the lack of affect.

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