Ultimately this work is about studying the nature of conversation. I have an intuition, which I have not studied, that all communication exists to create cooperation. I like citing Ackoff that even “competition is conflict embedded in cooperation”.

I deposit that ‘small communication’, is one done blindly by two ‘personas’, carries no creativity, and results in the passing around of artifacts instead of an act of creation. In effect, it is complicated, and asks for no developmental investment.

A ‘persona’ is a cut-out of a person, a siluet, an externally constructed identity: a job title, an archetype. ‘Small communication’ could be understood as a scripted conversation between personas, where neither is practicing sensemaking or seeks tolerance for ambiguity. Each knows what they’re going to say, before the other person finished speaking.

The smallest and most successful way of tolerating ambiguity is listening to someone without writing a strategy.

‘Whole communication’ is the act of showing up as a full person and supporting the other side to do the same. To be able to ‘travel’ on the visceral, emotional, and intellectual levels. Know when to switch to each dimension, and when to build new connections between them.

It is through ‘whole communication’ that thirdness gets created, and creativity is fulfilled. Digital tools, social networks, and over-mediation carry the risk of ‘small communication’.

Being fast, shallow, and context–complacent is the antagonist of building value. It is transactional thinking that looks to machines instead of humans to fill in the gaps.


Thirdness: the creation of new material, a creative entity in the process of meeting another person

Persona: the identity heuristic, the way the world sees you

Person: the self heuristic, the way you see yourself, even if abstract and not articulated

Small communication: the result of over-mediation in communication

Whole Communication: generative communication, which adds meaning to each person

Glossary on Are.na