The principle of individuation, or principium individuationis describes the manner in which a thing is identified as distinguished from other things.
The term is used to describe two different (though related) concepts. The first, the philosophical, is the general idea of how a single thing is identified as being an individual thing, able to be identified as not being something else. This includes how the individual person is thought distinct from the elements of the world, and also how one individual is thought to be distinct from other individuals. The second concept, coming out of C.G. Jung's analytical psychology, describes the process in which the individual Self develops out of an undifferentiated unconscious. It is a developmental, psychical process, the process whereby the innate elements of personality, the different experiences of a person's life and the different aspects and components of the immature psyche become integrated over time into a well-functioning whole.
There is a region where the two could be said to blur into each other, but it is important to recognize that they are in fact speaking of two different (though related) things.
This concept appears in numerous fields and may be encountered in works of Arthur Schopenhauer, Friedrich Nietzsche, Carl Jung, Gilbert Simondon, Bernard Stiegler, Gilles Deleuze, Henri Bergson, David Bohm, and Manuel De Landa.
Carl Jung 
According to Jungian psychology, individuation is a process of psychological integration, having for its goal the development of the individual personality. "In general, it is the process by which individual beings are formed and differentiated [from other human beings]; in particular, it is the development of the psychological individual as a being distinct from the general, collective psychology."
'The symbols of the individuation process...mark its stages like milestones', prominent among them for Jungians being '"the shadow, the Wise Old Man...and lastly the anima in man and the animus in woman"'. Thus 'there is often a movement from dealing with the persona at the start...to the ego at the second stage, to the shadow as the third stage, to the anima or animus, to the self as the final stage. Some would interpose the Wise Old Man and the Wise Old Woman as spiritual archetypes coming before the final step of the Self'.
In addition to Jung's theory of the complexes, his theory of the individuation process forms conceptions of a phylogenetically acquired unconscious filled with mythic type images, a non-sexual libido, the general types of extraversion and introversion, the compensatory and prospective functions of dreams, and the synthetic and constructive approaches to fantasy formation and utilization.
Individuation is a process of transformation whereby the personal and collective unconscious is brought into consciousness (by means of dreams, active imagination or free association to take some examples) to be assimilated into the whole personality. It is a completely natural process necessary for the integration of the psyche to take place. Individuation has a holistic healing effect on the person, both mentally and physically.
Gilbert Simondon 
In L'individuation psychique et collective, Gilbert Simondon developed a theory of individual and collective individuation, in which the individual subject is considered as an effect of individuation, rather than a cause. Thus the individual atom is replaced by the never-ending ontological process of individuation. Simondon also conceived of "pre-individual fields" as the funds making individuation itself possible. Individuation is an always incomplete process, always leaving a "pre-individual" left-over, itself making possible future individuations. Furthermore, individuation always creates both an individual and a collective subject, which individuate themselves together.
Bernard Stiegler 
The philosophy of Bernard Stiegler draws upon and modifies the work of Gilbert Simondon on individuation, as well as similar ideas in Friedrich Nietzsche and Sigmund Freud. During a talk given at the Tate Modern in 2004, Stiegler summarized his understanding of individuation. The essential points are the following:
- The I, as a psychic individual, can only be thought in relationship to a we, which is a collective individual: the I is constituted in adopting a collective tradition, which it inherits, and in which a plurality of Is acknowledge each other’s existence.
- This inheritance is an adoption in that I can very well, as the French grandson of a German immigrant, recognize myself in a past that was not the past of my ancestors, but that I can make my own; this process of adoption is thus structurally factical.
- An I is essentially a process, and not a state, and this process is an in-dividuation (it is a process of psychic individuation) as the tendency to become-one, that is, to become indivisible.
- This tendency never accomplishes itself because it runs into a counter-tendency with which it forms a metastable equilibrium (it must be pointed out how close this conception of the dynamic of individuation is to the Freudian theory of drives, but also to the thinking of Empedocles and of Nietzsche).
- A we is also such a process (the process of collective individuation); the individuation of the I is always inscribed in that of the we, whereas conversely, the individuation of the we takes place only through those individuations, polemical in nature, of the Is making it up.
- That which links the individuations of the I and the we is a pre-individual milieu possessing positive conditions of effectiveness, belonging to what Stiegler calls retentional apparatuses. These retentional apparatuses arise from a technical milieu which is the condition of the encounter of the I and the we: the individuation of the I and the we is in this respect also the individuation of the technical system.
- The technical system is an apparatus which has a specific role (wherein all objects are inserted: a technical object exists only insofar as it is disposed within such an apparatus with other technical objects: this is what Gilbert Simondon calls the technical group): the rifle, for example, and more generally the technical becoming with which it forms a system, are thus the possibility of the emergence of a disciplinary society, according to Michel Foucault.
- The technical system is also that which founds the possibility of the constitution of retentional apparatuses, springing from the processes of grammatization growing out of the process of individuation of the technical system, and these retentional apparatuses are the basis for the dispositions between the individuation of the I and the individuation of the we in a single process of psychic, collective and technical individuation (where grammatization is a subset of technics) composed of three branches, each branching out into processual groups.
- This process of triple individuation is itself inscribed in a vital individuation which must be apprehended by a general organology as the vital individuation of natural organs, the technological individuation of artificial organs, and the psycho-social individuation of organizations linking them together.
- In the process of individuation constitutive of general organology wherein knowledge as such emerges, there are individuations of mnemo-technological sub-systems which over-determine, qua specific organizations of what Stiegler calls tertiary retentions, the organization, the transmission and the elaboration of knowledge stemming from the experience of the sensible.
Stiegler is also concerned with the destructive consequences for psychic and collective individuation which may result from consumerism and consumer capitalism (see, for example, Stiegler, The Disaffected Individual).
Media industry 
The term "individuation" has begun to be used within the media industries to denote new printing and online technologies that permit the mass customization of the contents of a newspaper, a magazine, a broadcast program, or a website so that the contents match each individual user's own unique mix of interests, unlike the mass media practice of producing the same contents for each and every reader, viewer, listener, or online user. Marshall McLuhan, the communications theorist, alluded to this trend when addressing the future of printed book in an electronically interconnected world.
See also 
- Rationalization (sociology)
- Positive Disintegration
- Principle of individuation
- C.G. Jung. Psychological Types. Collected Works Vol.6., par. 757
- Jung quoted in J. Jacobi, Complex, Archetype, Symbol (London 1959) p. 113-4
- John Rowan, Subpersonalities (London 1990) p. 144
- Jung, C. G. (Shamdasani, S). (2009). The Red book. Pg 208 (par. 3) Verona, Italy: Mondadori Printing.
- Jung, C. G. (1962). Symbols of Transformation: An analysis of the prelude to a case of schizophrenia (Vol. 2, R. F. C. Hull, Trans.). New York: Harper & Brothers.
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- Individuation, entry in the glossary of Ars Industrialis, Bernard Stiegler's political organization and website. (French)
- Gilbert Simondon, Du mode d'existence des objets techniques (Méot, 1958; Paris: Aubier, 1989, second edition). (French)
- Gilbert Simondon, On the Mode of Existence of Technical Objects, Part 1, link to PDF file of 1980 translation.
- Gilbert Simondon, L'individu et sa genèse physico-biologique (l'individuation à la lumière des notions de forme et d'information) (Paris: PUF, 1964; J.Millon, coll. Krisis, 1995, second edition). (French)
- Gilbert Simondon, The Individual and Its Physico-Biological Genesis, Part 1, link to HTML file of unpublished 2007 translation.
- Gilbert Simondon, The Individual and Its Physico-Biological Genesis, Part 2, link to HTML file of unpublished 2007 translation.
- Gilbert Simondon, L'Individuation psychique et collective (1964; Paris: Aubier, 1989). (French)
- Bernard Stiegler, Constitution and Individuation.
- Bernard Stiegler, Desire and Knowledge: The Dead Seize the Living.
- Bernard Stiegler, Acting Out.
- Bernard Stiegler, Nanomutations, Hypomnemata, and Grammatisation.
- Bernard Stiegler, Temps et individuation technique, psychique, et collective dans l’oeuvre de Simondon. (French)
- Second Annual Global Conference on the Individuated Newspaper, Denver, June 26–27, 2008.