Interpretations of Optionality
Abstract: Edwin Thor discusses different interpretations of Optionality, in particular those of marketing and consultancy company Quintessence, musician Don Paragon and multimedia production firm Optionality.
Differences in Interpretation
There are a number of interpretations and implementations of the concept optionality. Quintessence has released a new issue of the magazine Optionality monthly since January 1991 and since January 1997 Optionality has appeared on the Internet as a WEBzine, complete with texts of back-issues, discussions, etc. The views of the editors of this WEBzine are that such different interpretations should be presented next to each other. Different interpretations of optionality can be discussed in great detail, but no single interpretation should be presented as the one and only truthful implementation.
Multimedia production firm Optionality (established 1995) likes to create artwork for clients who want to express their ideas regarding optionality. This firm clearly takes a different approach in that it concentrates on graphics, sound, animation, etc, rather than the conventional publishers' approach of concentrating on a single medium.
Since January 1997, Quintessence's magazine Optionality has appeared on the Internet as a WEBzine, thus taking a more multimedia approach. Also, the articles have lost some of their literary style and are more responses to earlier comments and discussions. Yet, Quintessence still has a bit of a publishers background and likes to promote work by artists such as Don Paragon both in the form of articles and as sound recordings (see appendix B).
Quintessence is also a consultancy company. There are also some interesting differences between optionality as used by Ben Mettes, Quintessence's Managing Director, and by Don Paragon, musician, composer and songwriter. In consultancy, Quintessence uses the method of comparative analysis. Ben Mettes argues that optionality is implied in this method. By comparing two scenarios, one does not choose which one is right or false, but one concludes that one prefers one scenario over the other. Such a conclusion is drawn from a specific perspective. Ben calls this perspective optionality. This optionality perspective is based on DonParagon's Vision of the Future. So, there are many simularities here. Yet there are differences between Don Paragon and Ben Mettes. In Ben's comparative analysis, optionality is applied as a perspective. Ben Mettes applies optionality as the perspective in his consultancy work.
For DonParagon, optionality is something he expresses in his music, i.e. an ideology or, if you like, what Don believes in. Optionality is what Don believes will be the most significant ideology of the future. In Don's Vision, optionality is one of the cultural aspects that will flourish in future times, next to other aspects, such as creativity and improvisation.
Within Quintessence, there are also some differences. In consultancy work, Ben Mettes uses optionality as a perspective and comparative analysis as the method. Clients nominate what will be analyzed and optionality is thus not the most likely object that is to be analyzed. In Quintessence's magazine Optionality, on the other hand, Edwin Thor personalizes the editors' view and does focus on optionality in discussions. The magazine Optionality clearly recognizes different interpretations of optionality, more than the ones above. An example of another interpretation of optionality is what has been referred to in various articles as the 'Action Man'-approach. Quintessence is always interested in presenting further interpretations, but the ones above are clearly the more articulated ones. Note that the magazine Optionality, being part of Quintessence, takes optionality as its preferred perspective, i.e. optionality as formulated in DonParagon's Vision of the Future.
For an overview of the implementations discussed above, see appendix C.
Logos of Optionality
The differences in interpretation are also reflected in the logos used. Multimedia production firm Optionality designed the logos below for DonParagon's Vision of the Future. In the logo on the left, the letter "V" doubles as an eye. Having a single color, this logo can easily be used in work that is photocopied. In the logo on the right, the letter "V" doubles as a ticked checkbox. By design, the letters in both logos aren't straight, emphasizing that there is no single fixed future.
Checkboxes also feature as an implementation of optionality in the icon designed for Libertaria. This is an animated icon, indicating that a static situation is not optimal and that different scenarios are and should be possible.
Multimedia production firm Optionality has also designed a key logo, symbolizing optionality as an instrument that can open doors that otherwise remain closed. The key is a powerful symbol, representing not only the opening of doors, but also freeing people from prisons and slavery, improving privacy through encryption, etc. The key also symbolizes non-violence, designing clever solutions, etc, as opposed to the more revolutionary symbol of breaking the chains by force.
The magazine Optionality initially started with a purple logo that symbolized different pathways each pointing to the same destination, thus forming the letter O with their curves (see below).
This was the logo used as the masthead of the magazine Optionality when it first appeared in 1991, using pre-printed cover sheets. The color purple was chosen, because purple is sometimes described as a color that does not normally exist in nature as a separate frequency in the visual spectrum, but is made up by combining red and blue. Thus, the color purple expresses that one cannot expect optionality to exist in nature, instead, optionality is established as the result of an intellectual process. The color purple thus symbolizes a rejection of narrowminded one-dimensional thinking.
In 1992, the hand was introduced as a new logo (see below).
The hand combined with the word Optionality was used as the new masthead for the magazine Optionality, while a simplified version of the hand featured at the end of each article. In the hand, the fingers still symbolize the different pathways, while the way the index-finger and thumb come together also forms the letter O, as the first letter of the word Optionality. The hand is of course a widely accepted sign of approval, that something is O.K.
Note that at that time, the magazine Optionality was mainly distributed in photocopied versions, i.e. in black and white. So, there was no longer any argument about color. The hand was only an outline in black, while the word optionality was entirely black. It was only when multimedia firm Optionality established a presence on the WEB, end 1995, that the discussion about color returned. After all, the firm Optionality designed the printed version of the magazine Optionality and was keen to take its designs on the WEB.
Quintessence also uses other versions of the hand (see below). One version has a purple background. Purple as a color is created by combination the colors blue and red, which each lay at one end of the visible spectrum. The color white was chosen for the word optionality, symbolizing white light that contains many, if you like all visible frequencies.
In this version of the hand, the two smallest fingers and the thumb come together to form the O, being the first letter of the word optionality, but also resembling an eye (for perspective). In this way, the fingers are seen as a one-dimensional sequence of five digits, representing frequencies in the visible light spectrum. The way the hand is shaped makes it look as if this spectrum is picked up at the beginning and the end and then bent in another dimension. As a result, the word optionality becomes visible in a purple background, i.e. in another dimension than stretched-out fingers.
In the above icon, the letter V features in the V-shaped fingers. The letter "O" also features an eye. The letter "V" and the eye also featured prominently in the older logo of DonParagon's Vision of the Future. Furthermore, the fingers symbolize optionality, and in the way they are held, they also symbolize Don's approach to music. The hand shows two fingers pointing up, while the three other fingers come together. Multiplication and division by two respectively three forms the basis of many efforts to standardize the frequencies of sounds, as far back as Pythagoras. However, the hand also symbolizes the number five, representing a harmonic that most clearly defies such efforts. Finally, the word Optionality emerges from the hand in another dimension than the fingers (if the were lined up), representing Don's rejection of a standard controlling all sounds in a song.
Quintessence also uses the hand-picture below, which lets the fingers do the talking, i.e. the five fingers expressing optionality.
Further comments are invited on such logos. If you have any views, contributions, feedback, etc, go to the Optionality Feedback Page. Suggestions can also be made at the Optionality discussions group.
Further Graphical Work
Such logos representing optionality are important, since the fact that they are graphical symbols of optionality shows that optionality can be expressed in other ways than through words alone. As DonParagon argues, the written word is very much part of society as organized by the Government. The saying is that a picture is worth a thousand words, but DonParagon is more sound-oriented. Don once said that a song is worth a thousand books with pictures, but this may reflect Don's preference for working with sound.
Apart from the logos aboves, one can have a look at some of the artwork published in earlier issues of Optionality, while the article Vision of the Future also contains some interesting graphics.
We are looking forward to further work of this nature.
Appendix A: Songlyrics
The following text contains the lyrics of the title song of Don Paragon's new album:
This is Optionality!
This is Optionality:
the possibility to choose,
a choice that doesn't rob you
of any alternative.
This is Optionality:
the possibility to choose,
a choice that doesn't mean that
what you don't choose you lose.
This is Optionality:
choice that belongs to you,
it's up to you to take it,
you decide what to do.
So don't let anybody fool you,
as to what you have to do,
even after you have chosen
the choice still belongs to you.
We believe, we believe,
we believe in optionality.
We believe, we believe,
we believe in optionality.
Further lyrics of Don's songs are at DonParagon's site at the Optionality Network.
Appendix B: Consultancy versus Publishing
Quintessence takes the perspective of optionality - optionality as part of DonParagon's Vision of the Future. Don himself does not use words to address the 'general public' like many musicians do - instead, the way Don makes music is a highly individual activity that Don himself describes as improvisation. Quintessence has articulated Don's Vision by interpreting Don's songs. Importantly, Quintessence does not want to be seen to be describing Don's Vision from a universal perspective. Instead, Quintessence uses optionality (i.e. optionality as in Don's Vision) as its preferred perspective, readily admitting that there are other perspectives.
Similarly, neither DonParagon nor Quintessence intend to address a universal audience. Quintessence is a consultancy company rather than a publisher. Many publishers address the 'general public' with methods of communication that are based on symbols that are supposed to have universally accepted meaning. Instead, Quintessence is primarily a consultancy company, interacting with specific clients. The interaction with each client is different. The magazine Optionality and these WEBpages may look like a publication, but in many cases it reflects interaction with a specific client that is offered to other (potential) clients.
This also explains Quintessence's marketing strategy. Artists such as Don Paragon are not promoted by advertising, as ads are forced upon people who in many cases do not want to be confronted with such ads. Quintessence applies the optionality that is part of DonParagon's Vision as a perspective, because Quintessence believes it is applicable, because it is a suitable perspective. In marketing, Quintessence seeks to establish contacts with like-minded organizations, individuals, etc, that similarly appreciate Don's work. Networking is the preferred method to establish contacts and hyperlinks that raise the profile of Don's work in a non-intrusive way.
Appendix C: Implementations of Optionality