Presentation Details

The Second International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities

Emergence Theory and the Humanities: New Possibilities for Explaining Dynamic Change

Dr. Karen Fontenot, Dr Michael James Fontenot.

While the analytic method is an essential tool for the humanities, it has limitations. When analysis systematically seeks out and presents a series of interrelated factors operating through time, its workings foster a gradualist, deterministic mindset. Since investigators typically rely on that approach, they can have great difficulty interpreting events that undergo rapid qualitative change or depart radically from anticipated patterns. The theory of emergence, drawn from biology, was developed to resolve such issues. This paper examines how emergence can open up new avenues for research in the humanities. It focuses on: (1) the problems that biological emergence was designed to address; (2) how the mutually supporting concepts of density and communication (the integron) are applicable across disciplines; and (3) on the explanatory power of the emergent characteristics that flow from conditions of increased numbers and augmented communication. It concludes that an increased sensitivity to new communication methods acting on an expanded audience can deepen and broaden our understanding of rapid or explosive change.


Dr. Karen Fontenot  (United States)
Department Head
Department of Communication
Southeastern Louisiana University

Karen Fontenot is Associate Professor of Communication and Head of the Department of Communication at Southeastern Louisiana University. Her major area of research is intercultural communication, and she is the author of over 45 articles and presentations.

Dr Michael James Fontenot  (United States)

Southern University

  • Emergence Theory
  • Communication
  • Integron
  • Rapid Change

(30 min. Conference Paper, English)