Tyler Volk


On his book Quarks to Culture: How We Came to Be

Cover Interview of July 11, 2017

The wide angle

All scholarship involves being diligent in seeking and finding of patterns. It doesn’t matter what the field is. We might be considering cultural studies, anthropology, botany, chemistry, linguistics: It doesn’t matter. The kinds of patterns, the kinds of relationships, of course differ greatly. That is why there is loads of work to do in all research departments of all universities.

Slightly more than 20 years ago I wrote a book called Metapatterns Across Space, Time, and Mind. I was enthralled with the perception of system dynamics and functionalities that occurred across scales of systems. These functionalities included borders, binaries or two-part systems, the issue of centralization versus decentralization, nestedness of components within systems, and metapatterns of time, such as cycles, arrows, breaks or relatively sudden changes in the structures and behaviors of things. My current book was conceived as a follow-up to Metapatterns, without knowing what I would write. I just knew there was material there waiting to be plucked.

So, I am doing merely what all good scholarship involves. It’s just that I’m taking the field of study to be this lived universe of all things. It might seem a little crazy. But I’ve been teaching metapatterns and writing a few technical articles about them. I was sure that material involving commonalities—really interesting commonalities—was (and still is) there to be found and thought about.

Many of the scholars that I’ve been aware of who do this kind of open scale research use mathematics. I refer to the highly developed forays of mathematics in complexity theory, network theory, fractals, and more. But I’m taking what I like to call an architectural approach. Much has been seen and described, diagrammed and photographed, and understood through the logic of language. In this way, I believe my ideas directly connect to scholarly fields that are not so mathematical.